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Iran: Mass Protests Stemming From Fury

Behzad Naziri

At the beginning of this year, massive protests shook more than 140 cities in Iran; some of which represent the ongoing strikes of various social groups.

Analysts have been studying the regime’s 40-year-old history to pinpoint the reasons behind such unprecedented events; two viewpoints can be explored: one, is the quick transformation of these protest from general to political; for example, the people of Mashhad were heard chanting “no to high prices” one day, and “death to Khamenei” the next. Second, is the apparent radicalisation of the slogans; for e.g., the people of Kazerun (west of Shiraz) who protested the city’s division, ended up chanting “beware of the day we become armed”! Another example is the farmers of Isfahan who protested about water shortage, (especially the drying of Zayanderud), as well as the consequent demolition of their agriculture in nearby villages; like the others, this protest was also filled with screams of “death to dictator”.

How to distinguish between the economic and political protests?

There is no doubt that several factors are prominent contributors to both kinds of protests. For instance, the continuing economic unjust, the widespread unemployment of young people, the theocracy’s inability to respond to primary needs of society’s weaker classes, the astronomical wealth of the oligarchy of mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the administrative corruption, the ethnic discrimination, the daily violence against women in prisons as well as on the streets, and so forth; all these issues, as put by Iranians, are like a knife in their bones; to say the least, people have reached a boiling point.

Even though the mentioned factors are all valid, they are not enough to explain the observed intensity of these protests. The only time way we can fully understand them is when we take a good look back at their roots, in the religious dictatorship that commenced in 1979.

In our review of its history, we see an oppressed and unheard society; whose explosive potentials have been buried under the systematic control of the regime’s Intelligence and Security forces, for years; but given the current socioeconomic status of Iran, these forces have lost all their power, and are unable to take back control.

One of the reports released by the International Amnesty reads:

“Human rights defenders seeking truth, justice and reparation for thousands of prisoners who were summarily executed or forcibly disappeared in the 1980s have faced new levels of retribution by the authorities.” (Amnesty International-2 August 2017)

This appeal is not restricted to families or human rights defenders of the victims; it apples to a much wider range of people, including the country’s younger generation:

“Human rights defenders targeted for seeking truth and justice include younger human rights defenders born after the 1979 Revolution who have taken to social media and other platforms to discuss the past atrocities, and attended memorial gatherings held at Khavaran”. (Amnesty International-2 August 2017)

“Khavaran” is a south-eastern area in Tehran, known as one of the estimated 120-190 mass graves of Iran; this place marks the common burial of the victims of 1988 massacre, whose bodies were discharged and buried there hastily at the time.

“The renewed crackdown follows recently revived calls for an inquiry into the killings of several thousand political prisoners in a wave of extrajudicial executions across the country in the summer of 1988” (Amnesty International-2 August 2017)

It has been a little more than three months since our analysis, which was conducted from Summer-2017, to Winter-2018; but with a closer look, an entire 30 years is behind this analysis, which addresses the ongoing bursts of protests; for so long, the regime has tried to hide many things including the common burial of 1988’s massacre victims in Beheshte Reza (located in Mashhad), the list of the executed People’s Mujahedin of Iran during 80s in Kazerun, the hanging of Isfahan’s political prisoners in 1988, and so on.

The anger and the rebellions that we are witnessing across the country, are only getting more severe and irreversible by the day. What they symbolise is the sacrifice and blood of many men and women who 30 years ago, promised the freedom of the oppressed Iranians from the tyranny of the bloodthirsty regime of Mullahs.