The Iranian regime carried out extreme, unprecedented security measures to prevent Iranians from commemorating at least 1,500 civilians killed in November, in the last round of nationwide protests in the country. These measures were exceptionally severe in Beheshte Sakineh Cemetery in Karaj near Tehran, where slain protester Pouya Bakhtiari is buried. Before their arrest three days ago, his parents called on Iranians all over the country to come to the cemetery to commemorate the 40th day of his death.
“When we entered Beheshte Sakineh Cemetery several security forces on motorcycles surrounded us. They showed us a parked van and said it belonged to the Intelligence Department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). ‘Do you want to get in there or get in your own car,’ they asked us. But people weren’t afraid. They chanted slogans and were arrested.” (Eyewitness report from social media platforms – Dec. 26)
“Pouya (Bakhtiari)’s grave was closed off in Beheshte Sakineh Cemetery. They flew helicopters over the cemetery to maintain control from above. The people on the scene chanted slogans without being afraid: ‘The people did not die for us to compromise with and praise the murderous leader’ and ‘Death to the Velayat (Khamenei) for his many years of crime.’” (Eyewitness report from social media platforms – Dec. 26)
“I was in Beheshte Sakineh Cemetery yesterday. It was full of agents and undercover agents and armored riot vehicles and the most ridiculous of all was the helicopter. They were very afraid. But along with their fear they were still impudent because people were just chanting and talking. Brave fathers told them that the money for their clothes and batons and guns that they were holding was coming from their pockets and that they didn’t have a right to beat people. Brave women cursed Khamenei (the regime’s Supreme Leader). Brave young woman filmed the scenes and helped prevent arrests. They were very afraid of being filmed. They arrested a girl but the people helped her escape and she came towards us. A large muscled thug of an undercover agent was chasing her saying that she had filmed him. We all helped her escape but the thug took out his gun and pointed it at the girl so we surrounded him. He was afraid but since we only talked to him, he overcame his fear and tried to shove us aside but we persisted until one of the men finally sent the girl away. A few undercover agents who were very young sprayed us with pepper spray. When the thug left, one of the young men said, ‘I wish we had knives’… They didn’t let anyone film them and unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture their ugly faces. I left my child at home to go there and I realized that many women did the same. I was really ashamed of the people that were arrested. Of course, we were all ready to pay the price when we came… But I’m very sad. Someone told me that it’s okay and it’s good enough for the videos to get out. But I think videos aren’t good enough, we need guns.” (Eyewitness report from social media platforms – Dec. 27)
“I came from Mashhad (NE Iran) to go to Pouya Bakhtiari’s graveside but they didn’t let me.
I filmed their violence but they took my cellphone and forced me to erase the videos. Except for a number of the riot police, the rest had completely covered their faces and only their eyes and mouths were visible just like executioners. Those were the ones who took my cellphone. I saw some instances where someone would come and snatch the cellphones from people who were filming and then run away. At first we thought they were thieves.” (Eyewitness report from social media platforms – Dec. 27)
“Undercover agents and riot police had a heavy presence in the city from morning. At night, their numbers and gears increased… Water cannons and large cranes were stationed at all of southern Tehran’s main squares. Armored vehicles were also present… The roads leading to the cemetery were under severe security scrutiny. They filmed everyone, whether they were on foot or in their cars.” (Eyewitness report from social media platforms – Dec. 26)
All of these severe security measures were taken to prevent Iranians from mourning the loss of their loved ones killed at the hands of a brutal regime that has stayed in power solely because of such measures.
This is yet another strong indication that the regime’s Supreme Leader is actually quite insecure about his grasp on power. Despite regime officials constantly boasting about how they owe their power to the people and that “it was the people of Iran who stood against the seditions” and not the killing of at least 1,500 civilians including 29 children, they know that Iranians are just waiting for an opportunity to bring down the regime.
Hence, the regime has become so fearful and fragile that simple mourning ceremonies are no longer an option.
Many see the happenings of December 26 as an ultimatum to a regime that cannot tolerate the most peaceful of gatherings. An ultimatum that carries the fury of things to come. Khamenei cannot keep his forces on alert forever. And Iranians will be ready.