Iran protests: IRGC unable to reinstate the atmosphere of repression

Hamid Bahrami
Hamid Bahrami - Special to Al Arabiya English
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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 common denominator for all dictatorships is that a ruling minority maintains its grip on power by controlling all crucial sectors such as territory, wealth, weapons and the media. In Iran, there is another dimension to this reality as the religious dictatorship misuses religion to mobilise its supporter and deceive ordinary citizens.

The regime in Tehran has secured its grip on power through repression, terrorism, persecution, assassination, intimidation and by hiding demagogic policies behind a moderate mask. Its motto during the last four decades to justify these malignant policies has been "preserve, safeguard and export the Islamic Revolution”.

During the recent nationwide uprising, the unprivileged class who lives below the poverty line, whose support the regime had hitherto taken for granted, joined the anti-regime protests. This proves that the theocracy’s hegemony over the society has started crumbling and its senior officials have been trying desperately ever since to reinstate it.

In this regard, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has pursued the following policies:

• Increase the number of special patrols across the country so that they are seen 24/7 in major cities. According to my sources inside the IRGC, the paramilitary force has established specific headquarters for each city with a large population.

• In order to reinstate the atmosphere of intimidation, both the Intelligence Ministry (MOIS) and the IRGC have tortured a number of arrested protesters to death.

• In response to nationwide demonstrations, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the authorities to increase the military budget by tapping into the country’s currency-reserves. Furthermore, President Rouhani has already increased the military budget by 90 percent in his government’s budget for the coming Persian year.

• Increase pressure on political prisoners, human rights defenders and women’s rights activists.

• Deceiving people with empty promises and propounding failed theories by one of the leaders of the deadwood Green Movement, who suddenly is free to express his opinion after seven years of house arrest.

In fact during the protests, reformists and hard-liners made common cause and united their factions to rescue the regime. It is no secret that both reformists and hard-liners have been responsible for the efforts to crush the opposition in the country, including the 1988 Massacre of political prisoners.

Notwithstanding these efforts, they will not be able to balance the power in favour of the regime and turn its fortune. Considering the changed balance of power both inside and outside Iran and the worsening of its economic crisis, one should expect the nationwide anti-regime demonstrations to continue beyond the Persia New Year. There are five factors which have brought people to streets.

• Economic Stagnation and youth unemployment
• Deteriorating standard of living
• Lack of civil liberties
• Disastrous environmental policy
• Dissatisfaction over involvement in foreign wars

Rouhani’s government is not only riddled with corruption but it seems also moribund and incapable of finding real solutions to address these problems. Thus, the theocracy’s days are numbered and its downfall inevitable.
Despite the ongoing repression, reports from Iran reveal signs of growing resistance against the regime. According to Radio Free Europe, there were sporadic demonstrations across the country on 30 January.

Iranian activists have also carried on the struggle by writing anti-regime graffiti on the walls and nightly attacks on offices belonging to the IRGC’s Basij-force in small cities.

In recent days, women have challenged the regime’s compulsory dress-code laws by removing their headscarf in public and wave it like a white flag during the protests. These brave women have given name to a movement spreading all over the country called the ‘Girl of Enghelab Street’, nicknamed after the name of the road where the first such protest took place.

What makes this struggle interesting is its leadership. On 27 January 2018, Iran’s state-run website, Jahan News, blamed the women members of Iran’s opposition group, the MEK/PMOI, for organising these protests citing the IRGC’s Deputy for Political Affairs, Gen Rasoul Sanaei-Rad.

"The leaders and those inciting the protests were from the ‘Hypocrites’ (regime’s condescending label for Iran’s most organised opposition group, the MEK/PMOI). They had come from other cities so as not to be identified. Those who were detained were from … the MEK/PMOI ….”, he said.

He added, “Eighty percent of those arrested were under 30 years of age. There were several women among them, who are middle-aged. In the 1980s, those who were leading MEK protests were mostly women. And now, the main chain of provocation and those who started the protests were women."

Hamid Bahrami is a former political prisoner from Iran. Living in Glasgow, Scotland, he is a human right and political activist and works as a freelance journalist and columnist as his work cover’s Iran’s Middle East actions and domestic social crackdown. He tweets at @HaBahrami and blog at analyzecom.

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