By Editors of The Free Iran Herald
Updates on events unfolding in Iran
December 26th marked the 40th day since the beginning of the most recent wave of anti-Khomeinist regime protests, and as the 40th day after a person’s death is observed as a day of mourning, the families of those who were killed in November called on Iranians to come out and publicly show their shared grief for those who lost their lives.
The regime acted pre-emptively and re-imposed an Internet blockage on the 25th. Outside observers reported that Internet access in Iran had decline to only 5% of normal availability.
Update: Mobile internet connectivity has fallen further in #Iran amid reports of security reinforcement; real-time network data show connectivity at 5% of ordinary levels on specified networks after four distinct cuts; incident ongoing 📉#Internet4Iran
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) December 26, 2019
Armored and motorized units of the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Basij paramilitary wing were also deployed in massive numbers across almost every Iranian municipality on the 25th. As described by Radio Farda, the Persian language branch of VOA’s RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, the Khomeinist regime’s special units have not left the streets of Iran for the last 3 years and now many cities, such as Ahvaz and Sari, are said to be under total martial law.
In this climate of fear, thus, there was no resumption of a large-scale revolt, as the regime had worried might happen. However, there were Iranians who braved the IRGC threat to gather together, and they were met with the typical severe response.
Among the biggest assemblages was one at the grave of Pouya Bakhtiari in Karaj. Bakhtiari, a 24-year-old man killed by the IRGC during a protest as he stood next to his mother and sister, has become an iconic figure to many Iranians. His parents’ bold anti-regime comments have also won them much admiration from the people. A huge crowd formed at Karaj’s Behesht’e Sakineh cemetery, which included celebrities such as renowned film director Jafar Panahi, and began shouting chants calling regime leader Ali Khamenei a murderer. The security forces quickly intervened, assaulted the people, and arrested hundreds, including Bakhtiari’s parents.
Hundreds of mourners attending memorial services for Pouya Bakhtiari & other murdered victims of last month’s peaceful demonstrations were arrested by regime’s secret service. The Islamic regime initiated #IranMartialLaw yesterday. pic.twitter.com/4dUobG4Kat
— Mehdi Mirghaderi 👑 (@mobarez_nastooh) December 26, 2019
Pouya Bakhtiari’s grandmother says many #Iranians tried to attend her grandson’s remembrance at the cemetery but were beaten and arrested by the regime. Pouya’s parents, Nahid and Manouchehr, remain in jail. pic.twitter.com/ZtDbNLwCHd
— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) December 26, 2019
— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) December 26, 2019
A number of other gatherings at gravesites occurred, mostly in small villages where the IRGC presence was limited. Several were held, though, in cities, where clashes occurred, and multiple arrests were made.
Video recorded 2 hours ago shows thousands of family members of murdered protesters & people of #Isfahan in the city’s main graveyard protesting against #Iran‘s Islamic Regime over massacre of 1,500 protesters during recent #IranProtests. Security forces are now suppressing them. pic.twitter.com/r2w1rH5dRH
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 26, 2019
Here people are chanting that after so many deaths we are not going to compromise with criminals, we won’t worship a murdering leader. Thousands of basij & security forces deployed in major cities today to stop any demonstrations but that didn’t stop people.#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/TCy8wcF59m
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 26, 2019
Jelveh Javaheri, Forough Saminia, Kaveh Mozaffari, Ahmad Zahedi, Houman Tahriri, Faraz Roshan, Fahimeh Kameli, Amir Eslami, Sara Zaherkerdar, Azar Jafari, and Mahrokh Roustaei were arrested by the security forces at the memorial ceremony of #NavidBehboudi. #IranProtests
— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) December 26, 2019
The scale of what took place in November is still being revealed. A report from Reuters on December 23rd cited three officials from Tehran’s Interior Ministry as stating that 1,500 Iranians, including 400 women and 17 children, were killed by regime forces in November. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated this figure when he called out the regime’s continuing repression on the 27th.
The Iranian people have the right to mourn 1,500 victims slaughtered by @khamenei_ir during #IranProtests. The regime fears its own citizens, and has once again resorted to violence and shutting down the internet.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 27, 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Khomeinist Regime: “You Must Respect Human Rights”
On Thursday, December 19th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an impassioned speech before a crowd of Iranian-American diaspora activists, who had been invited to the State Department’s headquarters at Foggy Bottom, entitled “Human Rights and the Iranian Regime.”
Pompeo said, in this speech, what Iranians have waited for four decades to hear: “The United States will stand and has stood under President Trump with the Iranian people…..Iran’s human rights violations are worse than unacceptable. They’re evil, and they’re wrong.”
For perhaps the first time in the history of the US’s relationship with the Khomeinist regime, Pompeo’s speech signaled that America, under the Trump Administration, is finally going to stand up for the Iranian people’s human rights as a matter of policy. “The Iranian people have a steadfast friend and they are good people and they have spirit. The friend is a unique North Star for hope for all those oppressed and their voice, their writings, their faith, and their ideals.”
In reaffirming the Trump administration’s support for the Iranian people, Pompeo also again expressed regret for how the Obama administration turned their backs to the Iranian people after the rose up against the regime in 2009: “Our public support, our moral support is important….It’s unfortunate that in 2009 when the opportunity arose, Americans did not do that….We’ve done something completely different in the administration.”
He then outlined three new actions the State Department was undertaking:
- Iran has been re-designated a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act
- Two Regime judges, Abolghassem Salavati and Mohammad Moghisseh, who have sentenced political prisoners to prison, torture, and to be executed, have been added to the list of those sanctioned by the US.
- Regime leaders and their families are now no longer eligible for US visas.
The last action satisfies a key demand of the Iranian people, who have long complained about how the children and relatives of officials, of a supposedly anti-American regime, enjoy extravagant lifestyles in the US financed by monies stolen from the Iranian people.
The recent protests strongly highlighted that
1- the people of Iran are totally done with this regime.
2- the brutal crackdown was perpetrated by the reformist party.
3- no legitimacy left 4 regime
On behalf of all Iranians, we thank you for the US support. pic.twitter.com/D2FKrLcFFS
— Iranian American (@IranLionness) December 19, 2019
I was imprisoned & tortured by the order of the brutal judge Salavati.During the long days in solitary confinement I knew that one day will come when we hold him to account.This process just started.Thank U @SecPompeo, although he should have been sanctioined a long time ago. pic.twitter.com/5KmgZGf25r
— Salman Sima (@SalmanSima) December 19, 2019
After Pompeo’s speech, the State Department hosted two round-table discussions, both of which were moderated by State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. The first talk was about ways the US is working to punish regime human rights violators via sanctions. Participants were Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and Sam Brownback, envoy for global religious freedom. The second one concerned the issue of human rights in Iran, and featured Ahmad Batebi, a well-known Iranian activist who was a major figure during the 1999 student uprising, activist and former political prisoner Nazila Golestan, and Dabrina Bet Tamraz, who had been arrested after she converted to Christianity. (video starts at minute 25)
Joint Naval Drills with Russia and China commence in the Persian Gulf
On December 27th, the regime’s navy began its first ever joint drills, with Russia and China. The two countries, who have repeatedly enabled the Khomeinist regime to survive via their military and financial aid, have, in return, been ceded huge economic concessions by Tehran. Iranians largely view the Russians and Chinese as neocolonial, exploitative powers, lording over them with the assistance of a weak regime that only cares about its own survival.
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) December 27, 2019
Told #FoxNews that often friends & allies in the region and beyond, ask the US to act more aggressively. This Iranian-Russian-Chinese navy exercise shows what we are dealing with. The #IranRegime is backed by two nuclear powers who are messaging Washington that they back Tehran.
— Walid Phares (@WalidPhares) December 27, 2019
Regime-Connected Drug Gang Leader Arrested in Dubai
Ridouan Taghi, a Morroccan-born Dutch drug trafficking gang leader, was arrested last week by Dutch police at his villa in Dubai. Dubbed “the most dangerous man in the Netherlands,” Taghi, for whose capture the Dutch government had offered €100,000 to those who could help apprehend him, is charged with multiple murders. He also had a close relationship with Khomeinist regime intelligence, and hitmen working for Taghi murdered Iranian dissidents Mohammad Reza Kolahi Samadi and Ahmad Molla Nissi, in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Khomeinist agents are believed to have aided in Taghi’s escape from Europe, and he is said to have spent time in Iran before regime intelligence helped him settle in Dubai.
For decades, the Tehran regime has been financing itself via selling drugs, and has longstanding working relationships with many international organized crime outfits.
#Dutch -Moroccan gang boss Ridouan #Taghi arrested in #Dubai after decades on the run
Until a few weeks ago, Dutch newspapers were reporting that he was hiding out on #Kish Island in #Iran @thetimes @hannahlucihttps://t.co/ZcTacDNhRh
— Potkin Azarmehr (@potkazar) December 20, 2019
Currency Inflation Still Increasing, As Regime Wastes Iran’s Wealth on Oppressing the People
The Iranian rial is now valued at 132,000 to the dollar, up from 120,000 to the dollar one month ago. Last week, it briefly fell to 140,000 to the dollar before the regime stepped in to try to stabilize it. The rial is expected to continue losing whatever value it has left as the regime increases its isolation through its unwillingness to bring itself into accord with international financial standards.
In the face of Iran’s financial crisis, a new study has shown just much the regime is spending on its security forces. According to the official 2019 budget, the police, IRGC, Basij militia, and the intelligence agencies received $9.1 billion in appropriations, or $24.5 million a day, which they spent on killing Iranians who oppose their rule. This sum is only a small part of what the security forces spend, however, because each agency, most notably the IRGC, is self-financing via the many corporations and assets they own. Data on these private funds, and how they are dispersed, are never disclosed to the public. Additionally, despite Iran’s oil exports having been reduced to nearly nothing, the regime plans to increase its military spending next year.
The study also showed how, despite Hassan Rouhani’s self-promotion as a “moderate,” he has, in fact, increased military spending markedly, by $5.7 billion (again, using only the publicly available information) over the course of his six years as Tehran’s president.
Earthquake near Bushehr’s Nuclear Power Plant
A 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck Bushehr, in Iran’s south-west, on the morning of the 27th, only 33 miles away from the Russian-built nuclear power facility there. Many Iranians have long worried that a country prone to recurrent earthquakes, such as Iran, is not the best location for nuclear energy installations, considering the risk of what could occur. Adding to their fears is that Iran’s nuclear plants are built with Russian technology, whose substandard quality has been internationally known since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.