Do protests in Iranian cities point to a social revolution?

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The year 2018 has just begun and many believe it will prove decisive year for Iran, the Middle East, and the world. Changes in Syria and Yemen are on the horizon and it is even likely that the Iranian regime is overthrown.

Towards the end of 2017, major cities of Iran witnessed angry protestors who took to the streets to protest corruption and dictatorship by chanting ‘death to dictator” and “no to Gaza, no to Lebanon”.


Spontaneous revolt

Referring to reports and video clippings posted on social networks, Reuters news agency reported: “Demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans in several cities across Iran on Friday”. For their part, Iranian news agencies and social media reports stated that protests against rising prices soon turned turned into big demonstrations, the largest of their kind since the nationwide pro-reform unrest in 2009.

The outbreak of protests reflects growing discontent over rising prices and corruption, as well as concern over the Islamic Republic’s costly involvement in regional conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq. In Kermanshah, protestors were chanting “free political prisoners” and “either death or freedom”. People even burned a banner of Khamenei’s photos.

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A protesting woman, surrounded by secret agents and the police, shouted “down with Khamenei”. The demonstrators have chosen their slogans very intelligently and quickly changed them from expressing economic discontent to slogans against Rouhani and Khamenei.

According to videos released in social media, the anti-insurgency police is using fire extinguishers and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Such demonstrations in a highly security-conscious Iran reminds one of the insurrection against the Shah’s regime. While people were about to expand their struggle and take arms to defend themselves, we witnessed the fall of monarchy within two or three days in 1979.

Revolution in the making

For a long time, Iranian regime leaders have remained in a gridlock of endless dissensions and internal feuds. The elite of the regime resemble the occupants of a very old vehicle that has entered that has entered a public square where all roads leaving the crossing have been closed and the vehicle keeps circling the roundabout, as bystanders keep whistling and shouting, ridiculing those sitting inside the vehicle.

All the prerequisites of change and revolution seem to be in place. People reject this corrupt and brutal regime that is characterized by repression, terrorism, destruction, and corruption. Additionally, a strong and organized opposition is controlling the situation. In order to establish peace and stability in Iran and the region, the international community ought to support Iranian uprisings and recognize the people’s opposition to the Iranian regime.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, has called the recent demonstrations in cities of Iran as the “death knell of a rotted and corrupt dictatorship and the rise of democracy and justice ruled by people”.

People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest over Iran's weak economy, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest over Iran's weak economy, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)

Trump’s warning

Paul Ryan, the current Speaker of the US House of Representatives recently tweeted that it is “important that we (Americans) support the nonviolent protesters in Iran. This is the result of a regime more focused on propping up terrorist organizations than addressing the plight of its citizens”.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on 29 December 2017: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including the right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests.”

Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the US Department of State announced in a press statement: “We are following reports of multiple peaceful protests by Iranian citizens in cities across the country”. She added, “The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”

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These appear contrary to Obama’s policy during the social protests in 2009 when he stood on the side of the Iranian regime instead of the protesters. The current US policy shows positive signs of support and sympathy with Iranian people which is essential, albeit it is still not enough.

Iranian uprising is the national right of its people seeking to topple the regime, whose security forces have resorted to serious violations in their clampdown.

As the Iranian regime is going to be overthrown, it is essential that Europe and other countries in the region support the uprising by the Iranian people and recognize Iranian opposition movement (NCRI). Such policy will eventually cause less bloodshed and encourage people of Iran to establish freedom and democracy.

F. Mahmoudi is a Kurdish-Iranian political and human rights activist.

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