As campaigns of arrests and death sentences continue, the regime in Iran is divided over how to respond to the unprecedented protests that have been going on for months, and analysts say it oscillates between crackdowns and calm gestures. The University of Denver Middle East Research explains: “Conflicting reports What we’re getting from the Iranian regime points to internal debate about how to deal with the ongoing protests.”
The agreement to retrial a number of protesters on death row and the release of prominent opponents indicate that some are seeking a more lenient approach.
However, Iran’s execution of two people for killing a member of the Basij forces affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during protest-related riots was a reminder of the hard line.
Since September 16, protests have been held in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini three days after she was arrested by the vice police for not following the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
The demonstrations turned into a movement against the mandatory wearing of the hijab, which was the biggest challenge to the authorities since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah’s rule, and the authorities reacted violently, killing hundreds of people, arresting thousands and sentencing 14 of them to death, including, according to the report, a large number of those accused of killing or attacking security personnel have been eliminated.
The Supreme Court has upheld several death sentences and has so far carried them out against four people. The judiciary also announced a review of the cases of six of the 14 people sentenced to death.
Iran expert Mehrzad Borujerdi, co-author of Post-Revolutionary Iran: Political Evidence, says this reflects “political calculations.”
“They know that mass executions will lead to more people taking to the streets. On the other hand, they want to signal that they will not hesitate to execute demonstrators to scare people,” he explains.
Analysts see the release of Majid Tawakoli and Hussein Runka, two prominent dissidents who were arrested at the start of the protests weeks after their arrest, as yet another attempt to patch things up.
Boroujerdi notes that the regime uses “everything from stress relief to lengthy prison sentences and executions. They are experimenting with these methods in an attempt to formulate clearer policies.”
For his part, Anoush Ehteshami, director of the Institute for Middle East and Islamic Studies at Durham University in England, says: “The retrials partly reflect growing external and internal pressure, and continues: “But even within the regime, there is division. on how to handle the situation,” as hardliners stand in the way on the one hand, and on the other hand those who believe executions motivate protesters to resist. Ehtesami notes that the repeated trials and the release of dissidents are “calming measures … an attempt to calm the demonstrators.”
Some analysts see the “stop and let go” strategy as intimidating, but also as “a test to see what the reaction will be.”