In the last three weeks, the largest human rights campaign was held both in Iran and internationally to save Navid Afkari, whose name became key to raising awareness about what is happening in Iran. Navid Afkari is the 27-year-old wrestling champion who represents a large section of the Iranian society that was repressed by the rule of the mullahs. Afkari along with the rebel generation from which he emerged fighting against those responsible for shaping the most polarized social and economic relations in the history of the country.
Iran has an extremely unbalanced socio-economic divide.
While 5% of the population lives in prosperity and wealth, the other 95% is made up of people -mostly young-, living in poverty and hunger. This massive segment of society is constantly rising its voice in protests against the regime’s medieval religious dogmas and demanding its removal.
With the execution of Navid Afkari on September 12, the mullahs’ regime demonstrated its historical incompetence and its reactionary conception of Islam, facing the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people and the wave of global support for a prisoner.
The executions of Mustafa Salehi and Navid Afkari are, perhaps, the best indicators of the historical end of the Velayat-e-Faqih system. This system has nothing to offer but imprisonment and executions against the public opinion.
Choosing between bad and worse
Why didn’t the regime back down with Navid’s execution despite the global campaign against it and considering its isolation and international sanctions? It’s common knowledge that the regime now needs more than ever to maintain a good relationship with, at least, Europe.
By creating external crises, the Iranian regime has always sought to cover up its instability, which it has only been able to counteract thanks to internal repression. In the current context, characterized among other things by a significant imbalance of power between Iran and the international community, the regime is aware that if the wall of repression it has built for years is broken, it will not have much time left. This explains why it has accepted the global isolation but preserving at all costs the repressive apparatus.
Had the regime declined its decision to execute Navid, it would have encouraged anti-capital punishment activists to pursue further initiatives by tying the hands of religious fascism in the face of repression and execution.
The government would not be able to survive even one more day without execution and torture breaking the wall of repression and emerging amidst the angry protests of rebel youth and women. It is said that supreme leader Ali Khamenei tried to get revenge by executing Navid in the Adel-Abad prison of Shiraz, the town where the 2019 uprising erupted.
Iran’s Mullahs failure to handle the Coronavirus outbreak
The regime thought that through the violence and killing of more than 1,500 young insurgents in the November 2019 uprisings, it would be able to make the overwhelmed society obey it, but this is not what ended happening. However, Navid’s execution unleashed a terrible storm both domestically and internationally, so the regime was unable to turn the Covid-19 into an “opportunity and blessing” as Khamenei wanted.
The Iranian regime tried to force the people to surrender generating a massacre by not taking any measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Instead, it opted for the “herd immunity” strategy that could result in the death of between 1 and 2 million people. The “#Donot_execute” campaign showed that society is resisting and standing against dictatorship.
The gap between the people and the government deepens
The mullahs’ regime sees another imminent uprising coming and wants to contain it at all costs. As Navid Afkari put it, “they are looking for a neck for their gallows”. But with his execution, the regime will have to accept the radicalism of the resistance movement against the death penalty and its aftermath.
The execution has imposed more costs over the system and put the people in a new orbit. When the peaceful protests find no answer and that the government responds with execution, they have no choice but to take to the streets. This was the worst-case scenario imagined by Khamenei.
The state-run newspaper Etemad (September 15, 2020) pointed this radicalism and the deepening gap between the people and the government and wondered why the execution of Navid Afkari was considered a “national issue” and wrote: “There is great interest from both the people and a part of the government. The conflict is becoming more violent every day. Facing the repression and execution of the regime has become a transnational challenge.
Execution as an exercise of power, or as a means to discipline society and prevent chaos is an antipolitical system. Executions and murders in traditional governments and without the rule of law have been a means of regulating society for many years. Do not forget that many of the governments that have opted for these mechanisms have come to power through the sword and war.
The Iranian political system -established by “voting” on April 3, 1980- claims that this is the choice of all its officials. But can executions still be used to deal with problems?
“This execution seems to be anti-political for the Islamic Republic, where the jury is one of the tools. In its absence, the public opinion that has expressed its will of “#donot_execute” (Etemad. September 15, 2020).
Unfortunately, Iran’s mullahs once again made the wrong decision without thinking about the consequences. This shows to the international community that Khamenei has exhausted his resources. That after 42 years of fighting against the Iranian people, he has little left to continue fighting with.