Ex-Iran presidential candidate: Violence will worsen

[CUOMO]

Hooshang Amirahmadi speaks about the protests in Iran during an appearance Thursday on “CUOMO.”

(NewsNation) — Protests challenging the regime in Iran are now in their third month as state police forces continue a violent crackdown that has resulted in the death of hundreds of people.

As recently as Wednesday, at least five people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a bazaar in a city south of Tehran, state TV reported. The media said that groups of several dozens of protesters had gathered in different parts of Izeh late Wednesday, chanting anti-government slogans and hurling rocks at police, who fired tear gas to disperse them. State-linked media also reported that someone set fire to a Shiite religious seminary.

The protests that have frequently resulted in clashes with police began Sept. 16 over the death of a 22-year-old woman who died while being detained by the country’s morality police. Authorities allege Mahsa Amini was not adhering to strict hijab rules.

Hooshang Amirahmadi is a three-time former presidential candidate in Iran, and he believes that things are going to get worse before they can get better. Amirahmadi has dual citizenship and is a professor at Rutgers University and founded the Iranian American Council.

“There is brutality, and I’m afraid to say this is just the beginning of what’s happening there and what will happen there,” Amirahmadi said Thursday on “CUOMO.” “This new generation is fed up. They got into the streets, and I think this particular protest is very different from many others that have taken place over the last 40-some years. This is not going to go away.”

It’s the largest set of demonstrations to occur in the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Iranians took to the streets for over a year before overthrowing the government and voting to install a theocracy.

Now, more than 40 years later, Amirahmadi said the country has become divided over the issue of religion, a split mostly along generational lines. The protesters say they are fed up after decades of repression by a clerical establishment that they view as corrupt and authoritarian.

“There is a good number of religious Iranians who continue to support this regime, versus the others who have increasingly become secular, particularly the younger generation,” Amirahmadi said. “Over the last 40 years (the regime) brainwashed a lot of people … but the truth is coming up gradually.”

In his eyes, the only viable path forward is a military coup.

“I believe that to get rid of this regime, the Iranian (people) need to accept a military rule for awhile. There is no alternative,” Amirahmadi said. “The right solution is for the military to take over, get rid of the moral laws, and then gradually open up the country to democracy.”

At least 362 people have been killed and 16,033 arrested in the latest wave of protests, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the monthslong unrest. Rights groups accuse security forces of firing live ammunition and bird shot at demonstrators, and of beating them with batons.

Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which tries security cases, issued a preliminary verdict sentencing three protesters to death in the capital, Tehran, earlier Wednesday, state media reported. That brings the number of death sentences to four since the latest protests began. None have been carried out.

The protests have added to the political headwinds for Iran. It still faces a policy of containment from Israel and Turkey and has been drawn into the war in Ukraine, with Russia leaning on Iranian-supplied drones as its own arsenal of weapons dwindles. The United States sanctioned firms and entities accused of being involved in the transfer of drones, which Iran has acknowledged.

“Iran very easily could become another Syria, and it’s almost there. Almost every country in the region is involved. This is already an international case that is manifested in the protests inside the country,” Amirahmadi said. “Iranian people are sort of pressed between two walls, and they just want to be free.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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