UN Envoy: Iranian Regime Is ‘Collapsing’ in Face of Uprising
Demonstrations have paralyzed commercial economic activity throughout Iran, leading to the closure of markets in Tehran and strikes in the oil sector.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Javaid Rehman claimed on Tuesday that the country’s government was in the process of collapse following a month-long protest movement against clerical authorities.
“The level of repression and authoritarianism and brutality that is taking place in Iran cannot go on,” Rehman said during an interview with Newsweek. “Something will have to give. Otherwise, there is a real risk that the people will rise and it will be beyond the control of the Iranian authorities.”
The protest movement began on September 17, one day after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman from the country’s northwestern Kurdistan province. Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police on September 13 for failing to properly wear a headscarf; although authorities later claimed that she had suffered a heart attack in custody, other detainees reported that she was severely beaten by the police, causing brain damage and leading to her death three days later.
Almost immediately after Amini’s death, protests erupted in Saqqez, her hometown. The movement quickly spread across the country, tapping into public anger regarding the conduct and relative impunity of the morality police. Rehman noted that there had been “a certain amount of passion and a feeling [among the protesters] that enough is enough, insofar as the repression and brutality and violence against women and girls is concerned.”
Although Iran has undergone frequent protests since 2017, previous rounds of demonstrations have largely been focused on specific grievances, such as lack of access to water or electricity. However, the current round of protests has been framed by both demonstrators and the government as an explicitly anti-clerical movement intended to overthrow and replace the Islamic Republic and its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei and other high-ranking government officials have refused to offer concessions and have overseen a harsh crackdown on demonstrators, resulting in more than 200 civilian deaths.
The demonstrations have paralyzed commercial economic activity throughout Iran, leading to the closure of markets in Tehran and strikes in the oil sector. In response to the protests, Iranian authorities also instituted a nationwide internet blackout, restricting protesters’ ability to coordinate with each other and disrupting public life.
Rehman criticized these moves as immoral and counterproductive. “You can’t stop protests just by adopting repression,” he said. “Iran is collapsing, and they have to understand there could be very serious consequences for this regime.”
Rehman has served as the UN’s rapporteur since 2018 and was most recently renewed for an additional one-year term in April 2022. In addition to his role as rapporteur, he teaches human rights law at Brunel University in London.
Trevor FIlseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.