The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran), reported that the enrolment for Iran’s sham presidential election closed last week, and Ebrahim Raisi is widely expected to be the frontrunner. As a result, several other potential candidates have indicated that they are likely to drop out and back the long-time clerical judge and new head of the Iranian judiciary, who is favored by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Unsurprisingly, no figure has expressed any concerns about Raisi’s history, underscoring the regime’s unwavering support for his brutal legacy.
Amnesty International released a study titled “Trampling Humanity” a few months after the November 2019 uprising, outlining the widespread use of beatings, floggings, electric shocks, chemical burns, mock executions, and other forms of torture. Independently, the human rights organization reported that Raisi’s tenure as head of the judiciary coincided with a rise in the use of capital punishment as a method for suppressing dissent.
Ali Larijani will be the most favored candidate to be chosen instead of Raisi. The long-serving member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is among the most numerous presidential candidates ever to serve the hard-line paramilitary. Their joint efforts to win the presidency are part of a broader trend in which the IRGC has used the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to consolidate political, social, and economic influence.
Many Guards were accustomed to the institution’s goal of exporting the Islamic revolution as a result of the Iran-Iraq war, and in Larijani’s case, the mission expanded to include propaganda dissemination. He helped to cultivate the atmosphere of censorship in Iran for ten years, starting in 1994, and it is still in place today, with new channels emerging in the digital age.
For ten years, Ezzatollah Zarghami was the head of IRIB, which aligned with Larijani’s tenure as speaker of the parliament. Zarghami, who had previously worked as a radio broadcaster for the IRGC, seemed reluctant to apply his paramilitary training to his state media position, and from 2004 onwards, the number of instances of IRIB broadcasting video of forced confessions by activists and dissidents appeared to increase.
Now, the regime has endorsed the candidacy of an unprecedented number of people whose status as members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ties them inextricably to this and other crimes against humanity. It can be assured that the regime has no sense of shame or guilt for violence on their own citizens and that they are unconcerned about the international community imposing sanctions in response to such crimes.
Whether Iran’s next president is Raisi, Larijani, or someone else, there is no doubt that he would support the terrorist network, as well as the crackdown on domestic supporters of a democratic alternative. With this in mind, Western politicians should avoid making the same mistake they did in 2013 when many believed that the election of the least of many evils would improve Iranian affairs.
In the Iranian framework, there are no “reformists.” Western politicians must support the Iranian activists who are encouraging their fellow citizens to boycott the vote and declare that their vote is “for regime change.”