Iran parades, tortures ‘thugs’ in show of ‘police power’

In recent days, the Iranian police have been conducting “maneuvers of power” in street parades, humiliating and torturing arrested “thugs” before the public eye.

al-monitor Video footage uploaded to social media shows arrested Iranians being paraded publicly by police. Photo by TWITTER/bahamim.

Topics covered

islamic revolutionary guard corps, law enforcement, islamic republic, ali khamenei, detainees, tehran, torture

Oct 7, 2020

Long lines of police vehicles carrying arrested “thugs” — mostly Iranians accused of theft and knife attacks — are becoming increasingly commonplace scenes in the capital, Tehran, and in a few other cities in what authorities are calling “maneuvers of power” and law enforcement.

Footage of “big thugs turned into mice” was broadcast from state TV, showing handcuffed detainees in slippers, standing in the back of police vans that cruised through neighborhoods where the suspects allegedly committed crimes.

Some were also seen being beaten by the guards, creating moments activists described as “a blatant show of torture in broad daylight,” “a violation of human rights and dignity” and “reminiscent of Islamic State convoys” in Syria and Iraq.

“If they are mistreated this harshly in the open, one can imagine how they are tortured in custody,” an Iranian wrote on Twitter, as those parades brought to attention long-standing questions about torture and forced confessions in the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus. Iranian authorities, however, have repeatedly denied both allegations. Last month, Iran executed Navid Afkari, an anti-government protester accused of murdering a pro-government employee. Among multiple questions surrounding the headline-grabbing case were allegations of severe torture and abuse during the wrestler’s detention. Shahin Naseri, the man who wrote testimonies as a witness to Afkari’s torture, remains jailed incommunicado.

According to Majid Mir-Ahmadi, acting deputy for Intelligence in the Iranian armed forces, the latest police maneuvers were conducted in response to “requests” pushed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is also the country’s commander-in-chief.

In 2011, in the aftermath of revelations of a $3 billion corruption scandal involving several Iranian authorities, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the Iranian media to let go of the file and “refrain from stretching the debate.” The crackdown on the “thugs” and street thieves has now been juxtaposed to the treatment of powerful and well-connected tycoons, many of whom remain immune from prosecution. And for those convicted, the hefty jail verdicts have come with special privileges including consecutive furloughs. A bother of President Hassan Rouhani and the daughter of a former industry minister are two of the most notable examples.

The new maneuvers also preceded similar plans, which were introduced earlier in August by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The so-called “neighborhood security patrols” have particularly focused on the impoverished Khuzestan province, which was a flashpoint area during last November’s nationwide unrest over economic grievances. Many Iranians arrested during the deadly demonstrations were described by the country’s supreme leader and other authorities as “thugs.”

Covering the recent police maneuvers, Iranian photojournalist Marzieh Mousavi shared her personal experience with questions on the crime deterrence impact of such practices. “One of the faces rang a bell,” she wrote in an Instagram post before digging out photos of one of the “thugs” from her archive of a similar police parade nine years ago. “I can’t help getting it off my head. What is it really? Awareness-raising, punishment, example-setting? Nine years ago: the same person [was paraded], the same neighborhood, the same narrative!”

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