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Iran crackdown on protesters likely to ‘intensify’ in coming days: expert

By Alexandra Mae Jones

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — The Iranian government’s crackdown on protesters is likely to “intensify” in the coming days despite sanctions from Canada and international condemnation, an expert says, calling Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s blaming of foreign nationals for the unrest “predictable.”

Iran has been the subject of protests for the past three weeks ever since the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being detained by Iran’s morality police. Protestors have been calling for greater freedoms and an end to the repression that binds women within the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, Canada officially imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and nine entities “in relation to Iran’s gross and systematic violations of human rights”, including the leader of Iran’s morality police.

Nader Hashemi, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, told CTV News Channel that while these sanctions are important, they’re unlikely to do much to quell the unrest.

“As far as I know, the head of Iran’s morality police didn’t have any plans to travel to Canada and he doesn’t have any known assets here, so the practical effect on affecting the lives of these repressive actors is quite limited,” he said.

However, he praised the specific nature of Canada’s sanctions, pointing out that U.S. President Joe Biden’s statement Monday on the situation was vague. Biden announced that the perpetrators of violence would have further costs imposed on them, without specifics.

“The Canadian statement was actually much more precise and forward-looking — they actually named individuals who were responsible for repression in Iran and targeted them with sanctions,” Hashemi said.

“You don’t want broad-based sanctions which affect innocent people who are not responsible for the policies of the Islamic Republic.”

The value of Canada’s sanctions is more symbolic, and Hashemi expects other countries to follow suit.

“They’re symbolically very important for the protesters in Iran and also for Iranian-Canadians, who are also very upset over what’s happening back in their homeland,” he said. Iran

He added that decision-makers in Canada should be listening to leaders on the ground in Iran for how they could take further steps to help in this situation.

Iran’s supreme leader issued his first public comments on the protests on Monday, calling them “riots” and blaming interference from the U.S. and Israel instead of addressing protesters’ criticisms of Iran’s policies.

“This is straight out of the authoritarian leader’s playbook, chapter three: when you have a big crisis, you blame foreign enemies, you never take responsibility,” Hasemi said.

“It’s a sign of panic, it’s a sign of desperation, and in fact it’ll probably embolden the protesters, because the Supreme Leader, as was expected, did not take any responsibility for his own policies that have brought Iran to this point of crisis.

Hasemi expects the protests to continue, but cautioned that it’s unlikely the tide will turn in their favour any time soon.

“This is a very brutal regime, they’re not going to simply pack up and leave because of these protests, they’re going to crackdown very hard,” he said.

“And that remains to be seen how far the crackdown will go, and whether the protestors can resist the crackdown that’s currently underway but — I suspect — is going to intensify very quickly in the coming weeks and months.”

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Sonja Puzic

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