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ANALYSIS: Was the Iranian uprising a sign of regression or progress?

Published: Updated:

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the viewpoint of Al Arabiya English.

The recent protests in Iran were triggered by issues like poverty and corruption, but they quickly transformed into an uprising against the totalitarian regime based on the doctrine of Velayat-e-Faqih. A dubious ploy was then used to divert the protestors’ attention from their main aim, as certain sections of the Persian media suggested that after four decades of the revolution, Iranians were reconsidering reverting to the overthrown monarchial rule of the Pehlavis.

More protests may follow

The wave of demonstrations that hit Iran recently shook the regime to its core. The impact of this quake clearly made the regime far weaker than it was before December 28, 2017. Little can be done to recompense the damage caused by 39 years of dictatorship, in the social, political and international spheres.

Thousands of people have been imprisoned and tortured over these years, many of them being brutally maimed or killed in custody. The uprising may have been thwarted but there is still in no sign of the troubles ending.

During the Shah’s regime, social protests kept recurring over long intervals. There is a remarkable similarity in the refrain of protests against both regimes — namely “death to Shah” vis-à-vis “death to Khamenei”. People have now started calling for messages of change by chanting “Shame on you Khamenei, leave the country.”

On January 11, the regime’s Etemad newspaper reported that Saeid Hajarian, the founder of the regime’s Ministry of Information and Security, and deputy chief of this organization’s torture and execution cell in the 1980s, has asked President Hassan Rouhani’s government to be prepared for the next round of protests and to start taking pre-emptive measures immediately. Hajarian’s words mean that Rouhani must follow former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and others by immediately imposing strict security measures.

Nevertheless, this regime has been oppressing its people for 39 years, and it cannot address the needs of 80 million Iranians. Therefore, the recurrence of protests is inevitable. There is no solution to the political, social and financial problems bedeviling this regime. As a result, the people have concluded that the only solution is to overthrow it.

Trump puts his foot down

Although US President Donald Trump approved the nuclear deal for the last time on January 12, he emphasized to the US Congress and his European allies that they should “either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.”

Trump wants changes or amendments to four provisions of the nuclear deal to stop the Iranian regime from continuing with its nuclear activities. He has stated “… any bill I sign must include four critical components … First, it must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors. Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.”

He continued: “Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon – not just for ten years, but forever. If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume. Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law – for the first time – that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.”

The violation of any of these “vital” components will re-impose sanctions automatically. Thus, Trump has thrown the ball back into Europe’s court, and they have to force the Iranian regime to accept future deals related to the region’s instability and human rights violations.

Trump has also approved sanctions against the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, who the administration holds culpable for carrying out violent crackdown against recent anti-government protests. Larijani is among the 14 individuals and entities designated to be sanctioned by the administration for human rights abuses, censorship in Iran and for supporting Iranian weapons proliferators.

“The United States will not stand by while the Iranian regime continues to engage in human rights abuses and injustice,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “We are targeting the Iranian regime, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, for its appalling mistreatment of its citizens, including those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and for censoring its own people as they stand up in protest against their government. We are also targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities, which it continues to prioritize over the economic well-being of the Iranian people.”

No reversion to monarchy

In such a scenario, are the Iranian people seeking a return to the old monarchical order, or a better future?

The information and security apparatus of the Velayat-e-Faqih regime and its political supporters abroad underestimated the “revolutionary” rage seething within the Iranian society. Protesters could be heard chanting, “Reformists, fundamentalists, this is your end,” and did not fall to the ploy of those who tried to stop them from making anti-government slogans and called on them to return to their homes.

The authorities pretended that the uprising lacked leadership, and suggested that some of the protesters wanted to bring back the monarchy. In an interview with BBC Persian, the son of the former Shah, who is now living a life of luxury after his father looted the Iranian people, said: “During my father’s time more freedoms existed, women and men were equal!”

If this was so, why did Iranians rise against the Shah’s regime in 1952, forcing him out of Iran in support of a national government led by Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh? The escaped Shah returned to power through a coup engineered by the US and UK coup in 1953. Indeed, he was a US puppet until 1979, when he was eventually overthrown by an uprising similar to the recent one against the mullah regime.

It is interesting that the monarchists, to whom the Shah is a deity, are blaming Iranians for ending the monarchy and are asking today’s protestors to return power to them so that Pahlavi becomes another Shah! They are arguing that a country without Shah will go to chaos!

In power, the Shah was regarded the shadow of God on earth. Under the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who founded the Iranian regime, the Velyat-e-Faqih became God’s successor on the Earth! So, who is the dictator?!

In fact, Khomeini's theocratic dictatorship was a successor to the Shah’s dictatorship. He empowered the medieval clerics by suppressing liberals and freedom fighters. Khomeini's predecessor Abolqasem Kashani supported the 1953 US and UK coup. Hence, both the Shah and the mullahs are two sides of the shameful colonial and reactionary coin.

Khamenei and other heads of the regime have apparently claimed that the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, organized the protests. Neither after the French Revolution, nor the 1917 Russian revolution, nor even in Afghanistan could an overthrown monarchy return to power. How is it possible then that for the Shah’s rule to return to Iran after 39 years?

This kind of propaganda is insulting to the Iranian nation and its long history of fighting for freedom and democracy. The Iranian uprising against the ruling theocratic dictatorship is the continuation of the anti-monarchy revolution in that it seeks to achieve the same goals. The Iranian people want an independent and democratic republic, which protects the national interests of all Iranians of various cultures, religions and political persuasions.

While the Iranian people are chanting slogans against the corrupt clerical regime, shouting “Our problem is embezzlement,” they will not allow power to be transferred to the scion of a thief who claims to have inherited the “royal genes”.