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Freedom Star

Iran: Significant Political Events of 2020

While no one can remember a more life-changing year, 2020 was a year of major developments for Iran. Below, we round up some of Iran year’s biggest political events in 2020.

For the regime that had ended the previous year with a bloody crackdown on the November 2019 nationwide protesters, the year started with a major blow. On January 3. U.S. forces carried out a drone airstrike targeting two vehicles transferring IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soliemani and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, deputy chief of Iraq’s Tehran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF). Soleimani was head of the mullahs’ extraterritorial terrorist attacks and personally lead the efforts to escalate the regime’s political influence and terrorist activities in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine.

On January 10, the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 was targeted by IRGC units, killing all 176 passengers and crew. First, Iranian officials denied the involvement of the military and claimed that the plane had crashed due to a technical failure in the engine. But after three days of cover up, under immense international pressure and after the release of a string of undeniable evidence, senior Iranian officials admitted that the IRGC had shot down the plane, fearing that it was a retaliatory strike by the United States following a missile attack by the regime against the al-Assad airbase in Iraq.

An audio recording of conversations between a pilot and a control tower in Tehran revealed that the Iranian regime immediately knew that the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed on January 8 was in fact shot down by the IRGC.

On January 11, soon after Iranian officials admitted having downed the Ukrainian airliner students and people gathered at universities to mourn for the victims and started chanting slogans against the regime’s incompetence. The rallies soon escalated into anti-regime protests, with the crowd calling for the overthrow of the regime and its supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

A writing on the wall rejects the regime’s sham legislative 2020 elections. On February 21, the Iranian people widely boycotted the sham legislative elections despite the regime’s efforts to create a show of widespread support against the backdrop of nationwide protests calling for regime change. Due to the widespread boycott of the parliamentary elections, Iranian officials had extended the voting deadline from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. But reports showed that the people continued to refuse to go to the polls.

The coronavirus outbreak intensified across Iran and new cases were discovered in different cities, but regime officials continued to cover up the scale of the crisis. The mullahs’ regime knew about the coronavirus pandemic at least two months before it officially acknowledged its existence in Iran on February 19, 2020 after two people died of Covid-19 in Qom. Showing no compassion for the people’s lives and well-being, the regime decided to cover up its coronavirus cases in a bid to bring crowds for the pro-regime rallies scheduled on February 11, the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, and the sham parliamentary election of February 21.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak in China, airlines from various countries stopped their flights to the East Asian country. While all countries were administering caution in their relations with China, Iran’s Mahan Airways, run by the terrorist-designated Revolutionary Guards ( IRGC), continued its flights to China without paying attention to the Iranian people’s health and lives.

March 12, the Covid-19 death toll continued to rise, and regime governors ordered preparation of dozens of 4-meter-deep graves for mass burials of Covid-19 victims.

March 15, Iran’s prisons and detention centers became one of the most vulnerable centers hit by Covid-19 due to the regime’s criminal negligence. Especially those who are detained for political reasons in Fashafouyeh, Evin, Gohardasht, Ghezelhesar, Urumia, Sheyban Ahvaz and Kashan prison were infected with the coronavirus.

March 23, For the second year, floodwaters engulfed parts of Iran. At least 16 provinces including Isfahan, Tehran, Alborz, South and North Khorasan, Semnan, Qom, Qazvin, Kerman, Kermanshah, Golestan, Gilan, Lorestan, and Yazd were hit by floods. The main cause of the disaster was the regime’s negligence and inaction. As with the coronavirus disaster, where the regime refrained from imposing quarantines on cities, the mullahs were not willing to allocate a budget for drainage to prevent floods.

Riots started against the backdrop of the worsening coronavirus outbreak, and Iran’s prisons, in particular, were hit badly as humanitarian conditions continued to deteriorate.

May 28: Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guards commander and a key figure in the repression of dissidents since the founding of the regime, was appointed as Parliament Speaker. His appointment as the Speaker of the “Supreme Leader’s Majles” or the “the Majles of Velayat,” as the new Parliament has become known, proves that Khamenei is out of options and maneuvering space, and his only solution to his current dilemmas is to put a hated criminal at the helm of the legislative.

May 30, six months after the Iranian regime led a bloody crackdown against nationwide protests, interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli tacitly announced that only 200–250 people were killed in the protests. In contrast, according to information obtained by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran ( PMOI/MEK), during the first few days of the uprising, security forces killed at least 1,500 protesters and made more than 12,000 arrests.

Iranian regime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made interesting remarks in his meeting with young members of the IRGC Basij on May 17, expressing grave concerns about the MEK gaining influence and support among Iran’s younger generation. “Everyone should be careful about the enemy recruiting members of our young society… I have always said that I believe and hope to have a ‘young and Hezbollahi’ government, meaning an effective and high-spirited government that can resolve our problems,” he said. “In the early days of the [1979] revolution we had youths… for whatever reason whose beliefs were not strong, they were recruited by groups that had mixed perspectives,” Khamenei added in a reference to the high popularity of the MEK among the Iranian society, especially following the 1979 revolution.

From mid to late May, forest fires hit Iran’s Zagros Mountains, western Iran, across at least seven provinces, burning thousands of acres of trees and destroying wildlife. The protected Khaeez forests, in southwest Iran and one of the most important areas affected, consists mainly of oak trees. Volunteers rushed to battle the fires while the regime refused to allocate any assets for this urgent matter.

June 5, Shahla Safi Zamir, better known among Iranians as Marjan, a popular singer and former political prisoner, died in a hospital in Los Angeles. The tragic event marked the end of Marjan’s four decades of staunch resistance against the most vicious tyranny in Iran’s history. In the 1980s, Marjan was arrested and imprisoned by the mullahs’ regime because of her support for the MEK. During her years in prison, despite torture and mistreatment by prison authorities, Marjan remained persistent in her ideals and support for freedom and democracy in Iran.

June 24, the Iranian regime’s Supreme Court upheld death sentences issued for Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi, three political prisoners arrested during Iran’s November 2019 nationwide uprising following a worldwide campaign on social media.

The annual “ Free Iran Global Summit 2020 “ meeting of the Iranian Resistance held online on July 17 in an exceptional and special circumstances that the coronavirus has imposed on the world, marked a historical event in the political and social history of Iran. Dozens of distinguished personalities who spoke at this event expressed their amazement and admiration that the event was held in 30,000 locations in 102 countries of the world, including Iran, where internet access is very limited. The event was attended by thousands of personalities, political leaders, human rights activists, and other dignitaries from around the world. Many described the meeting as “extraordinary,” “amazing,” “unimaginable,” “making the impossible possible,” and “an exciting technological achievement.”

During the Friday prayers of July 24, the most important political stage of the mullahs’ regime in Iran, many mullahs expressed their fear over the growing support for the MEK. These remarks came after the annual meeting of the Iranian Resistance the “Free Iran Global Summit 2020,” which connected 30,000 places in 102 countries including Iran and Ashraf 3, the headquarters of MEK members in Albania.

August 11, the state-run Asre Iran daily published a piece titled “Nitrate of Dissent-We should be careful of Iran becoming the next Beirut,” warning about the country’s powder keg society and comparing the status quo in Iran to that of Beirut and all of Lebanon.

On August 22, the U.S. Department of State announced visa restrictions for 14 Iranian individuals for their involvement in gross violations of human rights on behalf of the Iranian regime. The group included 13 officials involved in “a brutal and intricately planned assassination carried out in Switzerland in 1990 as part of Iran’s ongoing worldwide terrorism campaign,” according to a statement on the State Department’s website. “These 13 assassins, who posed as Iranian diplomats, were acting under the highest orders of their government to silence opposition and show that no one is safe from the Iranian regime, no matter where they live. The United States will not stand for the Iranian regime silencing its critics through violence and terror,” the statement read in part.

Amnesty International’s report about human rights abuses in Iran’s prisons sent shockwaves across the world. The report “Trampling Humanity,” published on September 2, is one a harrowing account of the regime’s crimes against protesters arrested during the November 2019 uprising. The document detailed the regime’s treatment of detainees, widespread detention, disappearances and torture, and is based on investigations by Amnesty International reporters and interviews with the victims.

The political prisoner Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old wrestling champion in Iran, was executed by the genocidal mullahs’ regime on September 12. This horrific crime took place despite a global campaign calling on the regime to revoke this innocent young man’s death sentence. A number of governments, international organizations and athletes from across the globe had joined this call to save Navid’s life.

September 15, Amnesty International published a 200-page report on why Iran’s 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity.

October 9, according to a Reuters report, Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian regime diplomat on trial in Belgium for his role in a foiled bombing attempt, threatened Belgian authorities with terrorist retaliation in case of being found guilty. “According to ASSADI Assadolah we (Belgium) do not realize what is going to happen, in the event of an unfavourable verdict,” show documents from a March 12 meeting between Belgian police and Assadi, as seen by Reuters. Assadi told the police that groups in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria were interested in the outcome of his case and would be “watching from the sidelines to see if Belgium would support them or not.”

Mohammad Reza Shajarian, popular and celebrated Iranian singer and musician, died on October 8, at the age of 80 in a Tehran hospital after a long 15-year battle with cancer. Shajarian was outraged by the Iranian regime’s atrocities against protesters in the 2009 nationwide uprisings, and while he had previously said that he did not want to participate in politics, he protested the regime’s suppression of peaceful demonstrators. A video from the 2009 protests shows Shajarian chanting, “down with the dictator.”

On November 15, 2019, after months of discussions, the Iranian regime declared a 50–300 percent price hike in the price of gasoline. On the same night, the Iranian people, frustrated from economic constraints, poured onto the streets in different cities to voice their outrage at the government’s policies. Demands for decrease in gasoline prices turned into slogans calling for regime change. “Death to [supreme leader Ali] Khamenei,” “ Death to the dictator “ and “Dictator, let go of the country,” slogans that were previously a taboo under the suppressive rule of the mullahs, were chanted by large crowds in the streets of many cities.

Marking the first anniversary of Iran’s nationwide November 2019 uprising that swept to over 190 cities throughout the country, Iranian youths in exile held a major online conference on November 10, vowing to continue the struggle for freedom in Iran. The event commemorated the enormous bravery shown by the Iranian people during the uprising and the courageous network of “ Resistance Units” inside Iran that continue to stand up to the regime stronger than ever before. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran ( NCRI), was the keynote speaker at the conference during which global dignitaries called on the international community to hold senior officials of the mullahs’ regime accountable for their ongoing crimes against humanity.

On November 27, the trial of Assadollah Assadi, a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat, and three other individuals who tried to bomb a rally of the NCRI in 2018 started. The four were arrested by European authorities before they could carry out the attack and after Assadi had delivered 500 grams of explosives to his accomplices. “Today, this is a historical day. After 40 years of export of terrorism and involving in acts of terrorism in Europe and elsewhere, for the first time, an official of the Iranian regime — a so-called diplomat — is put on trial. So we are very happy that finally, justice is being done,” Farzin Hashemi, the Deputy Chairman of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

Dr. Mohammad Maleki, a prominent Iranian academic and the first chancellor of Tehran University after the 1979 anti-monarchical revolution, passed away on December 2, 2020. Dr. Maleki was very popular among Iranians for his pro-democracy activities and protesting the tyranny of the clerical regime ruling Iran. He was also one of the supporters and sympathizers of the MEK. During the first legislative elections after the 1979 revolution, he was among the candidates of the MEK.

In a detailed letter, a group of seven United Nations human rights experts have warned the Iranian regime about its continued cover-up of the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The letter, sent on September 3, raises concerns based on documented accounts provided by the families of the victims and calls on the regime to clarify the fate of the political prisoners. “We have received concerning allegations of the continued refusal to disclose the circumstances of death and remains of thousands of political dissidents who were forcibly disappeared and then extrajudicially executed between July and early September 1988 in 32 cities, and the authorities’ refusal to provide families with accurate and complete death certificates,” the letter read in part.

On December 17, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution presented a month earlier by its Third Committee, which raised concerns over and condemned human rights violations in Iran. This marks the 67th time that the Iranian regime is being condemned at the international level for its human rights abuses. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, welcomed the adoption of the UN resolution, and said, “[The] main perpetrators of the atrocities mentioned in this resolution are those who have been continuously involved in crimes against humanity during that past four decades, particularly the massacre of political prisoners in 1988, the brutal suppression of the November 2019 uprising that left over 1,500 protesters killed, and 12,000 arrested.”

Throughout 2020, the Iranian opposition network inside Iran continued its brave anti-regime activities despite the atmosphere of fear and repression imposed by the regime. In the center of Tehran and major cities, huge posters of the Iranian Resistance leader Massoud Rajavi and the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Maryam Rajavi were installed. Such scenes have become more frequent across Iran thanks to the efforts of the Iranian Resistance Units, the growing network of activists supporting the MEK. The Resistance Units continued to organize activities in all provinces while echoing the slogans: “The November 2019 protesters will continue until the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime,” “A new uprising is like fire under the ashes in the struggle of destiny for freedom of our country,” “Down with the rule of the mullahs,” “Down with the dictator,” and “Rise up to overthrow the mullahs’ regime.” The Resistance Units played an important role in leading and organizing major protests in 2018 and 2019. Their activities aim to break the atmosphere of repression, and in recent years the creation and expansion of Resistance Units is a sign of the readiness of Iran’s society for regime change.

Following two major protests in November 2019 and January 2020, during the whole year, many regime officials repeatedly warned of a new wave of protests and uprisings. Despite the coronavirus outbreak, the Iranian society was not silent for a single day. Checkered across the country, we witnessed protests and strikes against the mullahs’ rule. Workers, nurses, academics, and teachers were among the protesters.

Also, during 2020, the regime executed at least 243 people. Among them were many political prisoners, including Mostafa Salehi, father of two, arrested during the December 2017 nationwide uprising in Isfahan.

Originally published at on January 1, 2021.



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Masoud Dalvand

Masoud Dalvand

Human rights activist and advocate of democracy, freedom, and justice in Iran.