Domestically and Abroad, the Iranian Regime Knows Only Terror
Unbelief Brief
January 30, 2023
Theocratic authorities in Iran continue to brutally punish protestors while trying to murder their critics in the West. Plus, Turkey's outrage over free expression.

The plot to assassinate Alinejad

The U.S. Justice Department had an announcement at the end of last week: three arrests made in prosecution of another of Iran’s endless attempts to murder activist Masih Alinejad.

A statement from the Department indicated that the three men who had been arrested appeared to have been hired to assassinate Alinejad, an Iranian-American who has long advocated for the end of the theocratic Islamic Republic in the name of secularism and women’s rights.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. The voice of such a strong critic of the regime—who comes from the country of the regime itself—poses an inherent threat to its existence. Iran’s pursuit of Alinejad has therefore been ceaseless.

Alinejad, however, has refused to be cowed in the past and refuses to be cowed now. After the foiling of this most recent attempt on her life, she stated: “I’m going to continue giving voice to brave Iranian leaders, women, men, inside Iran who are trying to save the rest of the world from one of the most dangerous virus[es], which is called [the] Islamic Republic.”

Growing pressure against the Iranian regime

It seems little wonder that Iranian theocrats are stepping up their efforts to silence critics abroad, given the nightmare they are facing at home. They continue to impose draconian punishments on “journalists, students, teachers, lawyers, and other protesters”—amid the ongoing unrest and anti-regime protests that have been raging since Mahsa Amini’s murder in police custody.

Protests do not appear to be letting up. The large segments of the Iranian population who genuinely wish to see the Islamic Republic end have not quieted down by any indications, whether in journalistic or anecdotal contexts.

In addition, international support for ending the theocratic regime appears steady as well. It may, in fact, be gaining momentum if it is heading in any direction at all.

In any case, so long as they keep trying to kill activists and journalists like Masih Alinejad, their vulnerability and lack of a popular mandate will remain clear as a cloudless sky.

The Qur’an-burning controversy

There are protests of a different kind also unfolding in the Islamic world: those in response to the Qur'an burning that occurred outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden.

This story has received attention primarily for the threat it poses to Sweden’s NATO bid, but there is a subtext buried within it which is very revealing about where the motivations and values of the current Turkish government lie. The fact that this—a free and democratic government granting a permit for a demonstration of free, if crass, expression—is cause for Ankara to become outraged at all only underscores its adjacency to the Islamist governments of the Middle East (such as, for example, the Islamic Republic of Iran). The official statement of Turkey’s foreign ministry shows this best, calling the Qur’an “our holy book”—as though there are no non-Muslims in Turkey.

There has been some speculation as to the true motivations behind the incident, but this is neither here nor there. There is no reason that a country which (ostensibly) holds secular and democratic values should allow such an incident, no matter its motivation, to affect its relations with any country. 

One might argue that burning a religious text is insulting, offensive, and altogether unnecessary, but Turkey’s grievance lies somewhere else entirely: the fact that Sweden grants its citizens the right to engage in such insulting and offensive behavior if it insults Islam, the country’s almost de-facto state religion. And still its officials will scratch their heads as to why the EU is reluctant to have them.

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