“We cannot hold back because we cannot feed our families with silence,” says a Kermanshah protestor in the winter of 2017-18, according to Iran Human Rights Documentation Center an estimated 5,000 protestors have been arrested as a result of the Iranian protests. Six months have passed since this report was issued in February 2018. Prices for food staples continue to rise as the Iranian rial is now 42,105.00 to 1 US dollar.

Mothers & Fathers Torn from Children in Latest Arrests

Protesters have tried to storm Iran’s prisons and social media campaigns have gone viral internationally urging authorities to #FreeAllProtesters. CNN reported that Abbas Edalat, an award-winning professor of computer science and mathematics, “is one of three British-Iranian citizens currently detained in Iran. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in 2016 and remains in jail, while Kamal Foroughi has been held in Tehran since 2011.” Protesters are petitioning the United Nations for the release of prisoners by gathering online signatures. Currently, 14,723 have signed on this site.

Regime Uses Prisoners as Bargaining Chips

Taking prisoners and holding them hostage to barter deals with foreign powers is a pattern of behavior in the Islamic Republic especially in the targeting of American, British, or other European Iranians traveling between Iran and the west. Such prisoners are used as bargaining chips in efforts to free their own detained assets abroad or pressure for other requests. Prisoner exchange was part of the nuclear negotiations with the Obama administration during which numerous “spies” were taken prisoner. During the Iran-Iraq War, prisoners and hostages were also traded although usually for aircraft parts and arms not food, water, and electricity. The 1981 Algiers Accord provided Iran diplomatic immunity which meant that acts of terror committed by Iran were protected. Today’s prisoners may likely contribute to  tomorrow’s IRGC funds.

International intimidation through the taking of and mistreatment of prisoners has proven to be an effective psychological form of attack on the Iranian population as well as western governments. It affirms the hardline establishment’s image of belligerence which is favored at the expense of the Islamic Republic’s credibility as a western trading partner. The inside stories of Iran’s prisons further serve to embolden the Iranian government’s international image with other autocratic regimes such as Turkey, China, Pakistan, and Syria through which it benefits from in both trade and defense agreements.

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