Since late June, 11 Iranian citizens – three in Tehran and eight in Isfahan – have been sentenced to death for taking part in mass anti-government protests in November 2019.
Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was accused of fuelling anti-government protests through a popular Telegram channel in 2017, also received the death penalty during the same period.
Also in June, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shut down Iran’s biggest anti-poverty NGO, the Imam Ali Society, and arrested its founding director, Sharmin Meymandi Nejad, citing “anti-Iran activities”.
The independent charity had attracted the regime’s fury during last year’s protests by criticising government officials for “calling the poverty-stricken demonstrators rioters and agents of the enemy”.
Why did Iranian authorities rapidly intensify their efforts to silence dissenting voices in the last few weeks? The short answer is “fear”.
Today, amid a devastating pandemic and crippling economic sanctions, the Iranian government is more concerned about the possible re-emergence of mass riots than ever before.
Today, Iranian people are fed up with the government’s totalitarian desire to control all aspects of their lives and its apparent inability to address pressing environmental threats, such as air pollution and drought.
Moreover, they are extremely dissatisfied with its bungling response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But above all, many Iranians from all walks of life are experiencing unprecedented, crippling economic hardship as a result of the cumulative consequences of the US sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic and the incompetence of the Iranian government.
US President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and embark on a “maximum pressure” policy devastated Iran’s economy, which was already in dire straits due to chronic mismanagement and widespread corruption.
Just over a year later, the coronavirus pandemic, and the consequent drop in global oil prices, inflicted a second deadly blow on the country’s finances. die
Due to US sanctions, Iran’s oil revenues dropped from over $60bn in 2018 to $9bn in 2019.
As the Iranian leadership tried to compensate for its oil revenue losses with gains in other sectors, the pandemic struck the service sector – which makes up more than 40 percent of Iran’s economy – and sped up the country’s looming economic collapse.