Forty-two years ago, Iranians, fed up with the oppression of the 50-year-old dictatorship of the Pahlavi dynasty, joined hands in hopes of gaining freedom in a revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979. The revolution brought a new dictatorship to power. A theocracy that still rules today with an iron hand. But what has the clerical regime achieved after 42 years?
Political and civil liberties
Iranians wanted freedom more than anything else in the 1979 revolution. The founder of the Islamic Republic, Rohullah Khomeini took advantage of the people’s desire for freedom and promised freedom to all segments of the society, especially the working class. He was able to deceive Iranians and achieve his own goals, which were the curbing of civil and political freedoms and the establishment of a religious dictatorship that is far more violent than the Shah’s.
Forty-two year later, Iranians have been robbed of most basic individual freedoms, let alone political ones such as freedom of speech and the press.
Iranians are brutally tortured and detained for expressing their opinions or speaking out against the regime. Hundreds of political prisoners are languishing in Iran’s prisons where torture is a common practice. Any opposition to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, even from those close to Khomeini and Khamenei who played a role in establishing the regime, are met by imprisonment, torture, and death in various forms. The regime has killed at least 120,000 dissidents during its 42-year rule.
One example is the killing of at least 30,000 political prisoners, mostly supporters of the MEK opposition group, during the summer of 1988. They were executed according to Khomeini’s fatwa (religious decree) only because they refused to deviate from their principles and beliefs.
Censorship has been imposed on all publications, social media and the Internet. Most social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Telegram are banned in Iran. Iran ranks 173rd out of 180 countries in press freedom. If a publication writes anything against Khamenei’s opinion, it is banned, and its owners and writers arrested and imprisoned on various security charges. In short, the freedoms that Iranians demanded 42 years ago have all but disappeared, making conditions much worse than before the revolution, under the Shah.
Deprivation of liberties does not only include civil and political freedoms. The Iranian regime systematically violates the rights of all Iranians including ethnic and religious minorities. Bahais are banned from practicing their religion, going to school and university and from having businesses, while Sunnis Muslims are not allowed to have their own mosques. Christians are also harassed and Christian converts are persecuted and jailed.
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