Scenes of chaos from Iran’s capital, Tehran sprang to our tv screens this weekend as news broke that Evin Prison – a penitentiary known for housing political prisoners and opponents to the regime, was on fire.
The stage was set. Within minutes videos from within the prison found their way to social media – flames rising high against the night sky, the overall effect made more chaotic by the sound of gunshots and furious calls for the “death of the dictator” [in reference to Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic].
If many immediately assume Evin Prison’s fire was yet another attack by protesters against the regime, an attempt to strike at the heart of the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus so that the world could witness Iranians’ resolve in toppling the ayatollahs, it would be to discount the regime’s ability to play disinformation to advance its agenda.
Evin Prison was set on fire so that the regime would not have to explain why so many new detainees died under brutal torture, and give Iranians more Mahsa Amini to rage over. Earlier Monday, Iran’s judiciary raised the death toll from the blaze to eight, after initially reporting four deaths over the weekend, blaming protesters for the violence.
With no real independent means to prove either claim since international NGOs are barred from operating within Iran, logic, and maybe more to the point, prudence, demand that we question the veracity of ‘official reports’.
Five weeks into Iran’s tentative revolutionary movement, hundreds have died and thousands have been imprisoned by the regime’s men, notwithstanding those whom the regime quite simply disappeared – Elnaz Rekabi being but one example.
In its desperate attempt to return order and reassert its authority, the Islamic Republic has employed lethal force against its people – often resorting to unpalatable abuses, most specifically against women and girls, to instill fear and through abject oppression extract submission. Countless accounts of sexual abuses have already been documented and made available online – visual snaps into a regime, which devolution into brutality we thoroughly failed to appreciate.