November 2021 marks the second anniversary of the major protests in Iran which turned into a nationwide uprising led by residents of almost 200 cities and towns across the country, calling for regime change with slogans such as, “Death to the Dictator.”
As the intensity of the protests threatened to topple the Iranian regime, officials ordered security forces to crackdown on the demonstrations and open fire on the crowds. 1,500 protesters were brutally gunned down, and a further 12,000 activists who were arrested spent several months detained and subjected to torture.
The head of the judiciary at the time, and thus the ultimate overseer of all that torture, was Ebrahim Raisi, a clerical judge who had served the regime by justifying a wide range of human rights abuses since shortly after the 1979 revolution.
During the summer of 1988, Raisi was selected as one of four officials to sit on the ‘death commission’ in Tehran. These four judges were tasked with implementing a fatwa issued by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini which called for the executions of political prisoners who were deemed disloyal to the regime.
In early 2019, Raisi was appointed as the regime’s judiciary chief. This appointment was part of a bigger pattern that saw participants and perpetrators of the 1988 massacre being rewarded with top regime positions instead of being held accountable for their actions.
The MEK accounted for 90 percent of the victims of the 1988 massacre, the overall death toll of which has been estimated at over 30,000.
Following Raisi’s selection as the regime’s new president this year, Amnesty International’s Director-General Agnes Callamard spoke about how Raisi has managed to be elevated to such a high position within the regime instead of being prosecuted for his crimes against humanity. She noted that it was a “chilling reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”
The second anniversary of the November 2019 uprising once again reminds us of the regime’s impunity, as well as highlights the brutality that the regime has inflicted on the Iranian people. The NCRI’s President-elect, Maryam Rajavi predicted that Raisi’s rise to the presidency would present the international community with a “litmus test of whether it [the Raisi administration] will engage and deal with this genocidal regime or stand with the Iranian people.”
When Raisi’s inauguration took place in August, the major world powers failed to bring up Raisi’s human rights abuses in their discussions of his presidential administration, and the European Union even sent a delegation on their behalf to attend the inauguration event.
That was an insult to those who have personally suffered at Raisi’s hands, either during the 1988 massacre or during the crackdown on the 2019 uprising. But so far, neither the EU nor its member states or allies have changed course.
The time is now for world powers to step up and act more firmly towards the regime. The brutal crackdown of the uprising in 2019 has not dissuaded Iranians from taking to the streets to protest for their rights and call for the regime. As a result, the regime remains concerned about protests escalating to another major uprising.
If Western policymakers and other stakeholders don’t reverse their silence on Raisi’s promotion to the presidency, they will certainly reinforce the regime’s sense of impunity and thus embolden the next sequence of human rights abuses against a population that has recently made extraordinary progress in its fight for freedom and democracy.