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Union Assemblies Decreased in Tehran, Deputy Police Chief Claims

Iran -- The third day of the protests of the Hepco workers, labor protest, undated

Hamid Hodavand, the Deputy Commander of Tehran's Law Enforcement, said that in the first five months of the current Iranian calendar year (beginning March 20, 2020), the number of union-related assemblies in Tehran dropped by 27 percent, compared with the same period in 2019.

The state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Hodavand on Friday, September 4, as saying that the number of calls for protest rallies in the Iranian capital city also dropped by 19 percent.

Hodavand's statement comes shortly after Hossein Zolfaqari, the Security Deputy of Iran's Interior Ministry, claimed on September 1 that authorities had tracked 1,702 online calls for protest since the beginning of the year, a 227 percent increase compared with the first five months of the previous Iranian calendar year.

Zolfaqari did not provide any data or statistics surrounding the purported increase in protest calls around Iran, though his and Hodavand's claims suggest that protest-related activity in Iran decreased in Tehran this year while increasing elsewhere in the country.

Neither Hodavand nor Zolfaqari mentioned the impact of coronavirus pandemic on Iranian citizens calling for protests or holding union assemblies, considering Iran's status as the epicenter of the deadly virus in the region since February.

Protest rallies and demonstrations against the Islamic Republic in Iran have gained significant momentum since late 2018, particularly the November 2019 anti-regime protests that rocked the clergy-dominated country. President Hassan Rouhani, himself a mid-ranking cleric, admitted that Iran was experiencing one of its most challenging years since the downfall of Iran's pro-West monarch in 1979.

Based on Iran's constitution, people are free to hold peaceful rallies. Nevertheless, the Iranian security forces, backed by the members of Special Units, the IRGC, and plainclothesmen, have always suppressed gatherings with an iron hand, killing, wounding, and arresting thousands of protesters.

In an 80-page report, Amnesty International said last Wednesday that punishments for arrested protesters in November 2019 included beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances and deprivation of medical care.

The report said Iranian authorities also conducted "grossly unfair trials on baseless national security charges" and gave death sentences based on confessions extracted by torture.

Most of the recent protest rallies have been triggered by the economic stressors on Iranian citizens. Meanwhile, the entities directly supervised by the Islamic Republic are tax-exempt and enjoy almost unlimited privileges.

In September 2019, just two months before the mid-November uprising, Behzad Nabavi, a former Minister and member of Iran's Majlis parliament, claimed in an interview that approximately sixty percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Razavi Economic Foundation led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, along with the IRGC and the fearsome Ministry of Intelligence.

All these Khamenei-related entities are tax-exempt, and government organizations are not permitted to go through their books.