Around 3700 protesters were arrested during the unrest that spread across Iran for more than a week, parliament lawmakers have confirmed today. Tehran reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeghi announced the official figure, which is much higher than previous estimates, via the state-run ICANA news agency.
Sadeghi did not elaborate, nor did he say how he came up with the figure. While reformists largely stayed away from the recent protests, releasing such figures puts pressure on their hard-line opponents who exercise control over Iran’s judiciary and security services.
Different security and intelligence forces arrested the protesters, making it difficult to know the exact number of detainees, Sadeghi was quoted by Al Jazeera. He also called on the government to prevent any torture in Iranian prisons, a common practice after previous anti-government protests. About 1000 were previously reported to have been detained during almost a week of demonstrations.
Protesting without government permit is strictly illegal in Iran, with perpetrators being threatened with a lengthy jail sentence, and some have even warned that they could face the death penalty. Violence broke out at several rallies, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Human rights concerns
The Revolutionary Guards, the military force loyal to Khamenei, said on Sunday security forces had put an end to the unrest that it too said had been whipped up by foreign enemies. A judiciary official announced on Tuesday that a detainee in Arak, a town approximately 200 kilometers south of Tehran, had died after committing suicide, according to Mizan, the official website.
The demonstrations, which began in the last week of December over economic grievances, quickly spread across the country to become the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election. Some protesters called for the overthrow of the government, especially targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Human rights activists outside of Iran told The Associated Press they weren’t surprised by the figure as authorities also allegedly carried out so-called “preventative arrests” of students not involved in the protests. Some 4,000 arrests followed the protests eight years ago.
Activists also said they had concerns about Iran’s prisons and jails being overcrowded and dangerous, pointing to allegations of torture, abuse, and deaths that followed the mass arrests during previous big protests. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran says at least three detainees arrested in the recent protests have already died in custody.
Iran stopped international efforts to overthrow government – Khamenei
Iran has foiled attempts by its foreign enemies to turn legitimate protests into an insurgency to overthrow the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei said on Tuesday.
“Once again, the nation tells the US, Britain, and those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad that you’ve failed, and you will fail in the future, too.” Khamenei tweeted.
He has called the protests “playing with fireworks”, but he said citizens had a right to air legitimate concerns, a rare concession by a leader who usually voices clear support for security crackdowns, Reuters writes.
“These concerns must be addressed. We must listen, we must hear. We must provide answers within our means. I am also responsible. All of us must follow up,” Khamenei was quoted as saying. He also attacked the US President Donald Trump, who supported the protests, and said there will be revenge for those actions, without clarifying.