Iran's leadership needs to be held to account for its brutal response to protests in Iran, and in those countries where it exercises influence through proxies.

In what is now becoming familiar scenes wherever Iran’s imperial power holds sway, this week we are met by more tragic reports that Tehran has been slaughtering its citizens by the hundreds to quell recent domestic unrest. 

Iranians have taken to the streets since earlier this month to protest against rising taxes and petroleum price hikes that affect ordinary Iranians. Their government meanwhile, is busy wasting the nation’s treasure on foreign military adventures to cement its newly found imperial power that it has enjoyed since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Amnesty International has recently published a report outlining how their government killed at least 143 Iranian protesters. The human rights organisation confirmed that almost all the deaths against unarmed protesters were from bullet wounds, while one demonstrator was confirmed as having been brutally beaten to death by security forces and another had suffocated due to excessive tear gas exposure leading to asphyxiation.

Muted international condemnation

Amazingly, the international community has had such a muted response to Iran’s brutality against its people.

The European Union issued a paltry three-paragraph communique condemning the violence, calling on security forces to exercise “maximum restraint” and for protesters to “demonstrate peacefully”. The United Nations also expressed concern at the loss of life, while several other states also made some hesitant mutterings on the welfare of the protesters.

No one explicitly called out Iran for what it is doing, namely the “deadly and unwarranted use of force to crush dissent”, according to Amnesty. And how else can we describe what Iran is doing? 

It is not as though Iranian demonstrators are armed to the teeth and actively attempting to instigate a revolution, which would be ironic considering the Iranian state’s incessant “revolutionary” propaganda designed to justify everything that it does.

Iranian security forces have been filmed on rooftops to get a good vantage with which to shoot protesters, used direct live fire at close range, and deliberately shot at protesters who were attempting to flee the carnage. This all followed what amounted to a green light for security forces to use excessive violence from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after he described protesters as “villains”. These "villains" were simply for asking for their right to a dignified life under a functioning socio-economic system. Sadly, Khamenei has nothing to say about the real villains who are shooting unarmed protesters in the back.

Imperial Iran tolerates no dissent

But it is not only across Iran that peaceful protesters are facing the wrath of Tehran’s security apparatus.

In Lebanon, which has experienced civil unrest over an economic crisis brought about by sectarian politicians and corrupt officials, militants carrying Iranian proxy Hezbollah’s banners aloft set upon peaceful demonstrators in the capital Beirut and the southern city of Sour earlier this week. 

The men belonging to the Shia militant organisation wielded knives, steel batons, and hurled rocks at anti-graft protesters, burning tents and destroying private property.

Far from merely being a homegrown armed militant group, Hezbollah has extended Iran’s influence into the diminutive Levantine state, allowing Tehran to reach the Mediterranean and to have one of its most potent proxies on Israel’s borders. 

Incidentally, Hezbollah’s activities against Israel have been painted as being part of the broader “Axis of Resistance” and is frequently referenced by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah as a justification for the group’s violence in Lebanon, Syria, and even beyond.

Lebanese protesters who have had enough of not only Hezbollah but also the other Sunni and Christian parties who have failed to achieve the nation’s aspirations are now at risk of being killed and maimed in the street simply for calling for reforms to what is clearly a corrupt system. 

Iran, however, cannot tolerate such a risk to a strategic asset such as its proxy Hezbollah and will not risk losing control of Lebanon due to the desires of the Lebanese people.

Similarly, in Iraq, it has already been well-documented via even Iran’s intelligence leaks how Tehran is the imperial power holding sway over affairs big and small in Baghdad. 

Iran’s control over Iraq’s affairs is so total that it has influence within the highest political and military offices of the land and can deploy its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Iraq without nary a whisper of refusal from Iraqi officials who are almost all invariably in Iran’s pocket.

Protests in Iraq, which are now in their second month, are thus seen as a deadly threat to Iranian imperial control over perhaps its most prized colonial possession. 

Iraq has acted as a hub for Iran’s power extension across the region, and any threat to its proxies and puppet politicians, therefore, represents a threat to Iran’s ability to continue to exert power through its tragedy-stricken western neighbour. 

The evidence now shows that Iranian proxies have actively deployed snipers to kill protesters and all for the sake of maintaining the status quo at the expense of the Iraqi people and the nation’s sovereignty.

This fresh wave of protests engulfing Iraq, Lebanon, and now even Iran are demonstrative of a domestic and regional pushback against the destructive policies of the Islamic Republic. They have not only spent vast amounts of treasure in support of their imperial designs that has impoverished the Iranian people, but they have also presided over a campaign of repression that starts in Tehran, flows over Baghdad, and ends in Beirut. 

Such a state of affairs cannot continue, and Iran is now beginning to see what happens when you keep people downtrodden and in an undignified state for too long with no hope other than the revolt of restoring their dignity.

If Iran's leadership can't even tolerate dissent in its spheres influence, then what hope do reformers in Iran have?

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to