Pursuing mourners in cemeteries

Pursuing mourners in cemeteries

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The sight of security forces pushing people out of Iranian cemeteries — people who had come to mourn and visit their loved ones killed in the latest protests across the country — shows the regime in Tehran has lost its mind, even afraid of ghosts of the dead.

The same regime that once sowed terror in the hearts of the world is now living in fear of its own people, kicking into higher gear at all levels. It has shut off the internet for 40 million users, and has also blocked foreign media outlets so as to halt the spread of bad news and criticism.

It has even abandoned the idea of secret or discreet policing, resorting to highlighting armed police and security forces in the streets suppressing demonstrators.

In the last few days, Tehran was keen to show not only that it was prepared to use force, but the extent of said force available to it, in an attempt to deter people from public rebellion. This has led to the deaths of about 1,500 demonstrators, mostly young people, and the arrests of thousands more, but still the authorities have failed to control the spread of public disillusion.

Iran’s statements reflect the confusion and deterioration of the regime’s performance, such as the contradictory outbursts of political and parliamentary leaders, clerics and media outlets close to the government. They are pelting one another with blame and accusations of failure. The latest leaks accuse Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself of ordering repression and murder, instead of the heads of the security services.

The same regime that once sowed terror in the hearts of the world is now living in fear of its own people, kicking into higher gear at all levels

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

The government has lost its credibility to Iranian people that used to consider it an extension of them, and who were loyal to it. With the risk of division within it, and the wavering loyalty of its followers, Tehran will face greater risks as its economic situation worsens as a result of international sanctions.

Political intransigence is costing Iran billions of dollars to finance its internal and external operations, at the expense of wages and living conditions. That spells trouble in a society where most people rely on the government for jobs and subsidy for key commodities.

Horrifying scenes such as the pursuit of mourners in cemeteries have hit the regime at its core, making it lose its last loyalists, who believed in it and in its promises and excuses. Targeting young people and killing them will turn them into icons of the new Iranian revolution. Nikta Esfandani, a 14-year-old girl, was shot and killed during the recent protests in November, one of the 400 victims of government violence in that sorry episode.

Does Khamenei believe that he can control the protests at a time when fuel prices are rising, and people are fully convinced that corruption is widespread among politicians and clerics? Does he believe they will continue to tolerate the country’s foriegn escapades, especially the adventures of Gen. Qassem Soleimani interfering outside their country?

The supreme leader seems to be waiting for divine intervention. So far, all he has got is US sanctions, natural disasters and a political earthquake.

  • Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed
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