LONDON: Iran faced fresh warnings over human rights abuses on Tuesday as its economic crisis worsened and hundreds of protesters took to the streets.
Demonstrations spread to the historic city of Isfahan, with protesters demanding an end to the Iranian regime's costly interference in the affairs of neighboring countries in the region.
At least 29 people have been arrested on vague charges of “economic disruption,” and some face the death penalty.
Signs of further unrest emerged on Tuesday as shopkeepers and other workers went on strike in protest at the decline of Iran’s currency.
“In recent weeks and months we’ve had many protests,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesman for the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group, told Arab News. “Human rights are suffering … and every day they suffer more. Iran is amongst the biggest violators of human rights in the world today.”
He said the recent arrests were unlikely to have targeted the corrupt officials who occupy the “inner circles” of Iranian public life. The arrests serve two purposes, he said — to suggest the Iranian government is acting to stamp out “huge corruption,” and to instill fear in the public. “There are people who have been executed for economic corruption. But … the trials are not public so nobody knows that what the authorities are claiming is true.
“From the authorities’ view, these death sentences are more important as instruments of intimidation and spreading fear. If they really want to go after the corruption, they will be in deep trouble because the corruption is at the highest levels.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh also said the reasons for Iran’s economic crises go to the top of government.
“The Iranian regime’s financial corruption, misuse of public funds, the widespread banking crisis, and the hemorrhaging of billions of dollars … on militia and terror groups are among the major reasons behind the present currency and economic crises,” he said.
Protests in Isfahan
In Isfahan, striking shopkeepers, farmers and truck drivers were joined by other citizens in the Amir-Kabir industrial complex in New Shapur, according to Iranian activists.
Video footage showed hundreds of protesters shouting: “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my soul is Iran’s redemption.” The slogan refers to Tehran’s costly military adventures in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, at the expense of the domestic economy.
حضور پلیس ضد شورش در منطقه شاپور جدید اصفهان
گروهی از کسبه و رانندگان شاپور جدید در "اعتراض به گرانی و بیکاری" تجمع کردهاند. pic.twitter.com/nTICjOLRNj
— BBC NEWS فارسی (@bbcpersian) July 31, 2018
Amiry-Moghaddam urged the world to do more to address the human rights situation, which he said was a result of a regime looking to cling on to power. “The main reason for people suffering is the regime: There is a lack of accountability and huge corruption … and use of violence to keep power.”
The slogan has been repeated at a series of protests that started at the end of last year. It refers to the regime’s expenditure on the regional military interventions instead of using the funds to tackle the country’s economic woes.
In December and January widespread protests against economic conditions shook the country. At least 25 protesters were killed and nearly 5,000 arrested in a brutal response by the security forces.
Last month, protesters clashed with police outside parliament in Tehran in three days of protests sparked by the plunging rial.
On June 25, a strike shut down the stalls of the Grand Bazaar in Tehran and several other markets.
Meanwhile, a truck drivers’ strike entered its eighth day in cities across the country, according to reports.
And railway workers in Tabriz, north-east Iran, protested on Monday after receiving no salary over the past four months, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
It reported that the workers had cut off the railway route, which connects Tabriz with the rest of the provinces.
Activists on Tuesday continued to publish pictures showing an intense presence of security forces and police in Tehran.