As the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death in police custody nears, military convoys have been seen heading toward cities in Iran’s Kurdistan province, raising questions about the government's intentions.
Saqqez, Mahsa's hometown, has become a garrison for counter-insurgency forces such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the paramilitary Basij force, creating an atmosphere of tension.
Intelligence officials have repeatedly summoned Mahsa's father in an effort to discourage him from organizing a commemoration to mark her death.
The government's ramped-up crackdown on peaceful dissent has extended to family members of those who were killed” during the nationwide demonstrations sparked by Mahsa’s death.
The repression has also escalated in academic institutions, which have dismissed professors who supported protesting students.
Fearful or Assertive?
The supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei, has recently used a speech to warn against an alleged "enemy plot."
On the one hand, Khamenei emphasized the need to safeguard national security at any cost, while on the other hand he confidently declared that the "enemy's" capabilities are limited.
Speaking to members of the Basiji Student Organization, IRGC commander Hossein Salami described the "enemy" as being "experienced."
Some experts say the government's words and security measures are manifestations of anxiety and fear among the Islamic Republic’s leader and his appointees.
Abdullah Naseri, a former CEO of the official IRNA news agency, said in an interview with the Zeitoons website that Khamenei appears to be both deeply scared and saddened by the impact of the "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement.
Above all, the actions of government officials ahead of the September 16 anniversary of Mahsa's death reveal their fear, Mohsen Sazgara, a member of the Transitional Management Council, said in an interview with IranWire.
He added that the government seeks to bolster its supporters and convey the message that this year will pass without incident.
"What Khamenei and figures like Hossein Salami fail to grasp is that this is an ongoing revolution deeply ingrained in Iranian society. This revolution is permeating our society's very fabric," Sazagara said.
In addition to deploying troops to cities and issuing warnings in anticipation of renewed protests, the security apparatus of the Islamic Republic has engaged in disseminating news and information about the confrontation and arrests of protesters.
The Ministry of Intelligence announced the apprehension of several leaders of anti-Islamic Republic rallies abroad. IRGC-affiliated news agencies also circulated images of these individuals both before and after their arrests.
Hana Hasanpour, a political science researcher, said that such actions show the Islamic Republic's deep concern regarding the potential resurgence of anti-government protests on foreign soil.
She told IranWire that the Islamic Republic sought to modernize its strategies when dealing with dissent after recognizing the profound impact of media and social networks following the 2009 protests.
Hasanpour explained that since the 2009 protests, citizen journalists have used social media platforms to document and report on oppression, discrimination and violence perpetrated by the authorities.
In response, the government has worked hard to train and organize its forces in the fields of psychological warfare and the media in order to be able to control the situation or even suppress the protest movement.
"One tactic in this psychological warfare has been to amplify fear through news manipulation, essentially exaggerating events and instilling fear to deter further protests from taking place," Hasanpour said.
What the Government Fails to Recognize
Sazgara asserted that the government persists in its old tactics against dissent – arrests, intimidation, torture, violence and propaganda — all designed to discourage the people.
According to him, the government's overarching strategy revolves around instilling fear, hoping that it will refrain people from taking action.
However, he emphasized that when millions of people share a belief, no government can thwart their collective will.
Hasanpour, too, regarded the government's tactics as rooted in fear and weakness, saying, "These actions are, of course, attempts to sap the energy of opposition forces and dissuade potential protesters” from taking to the streets.