EDITORIAL: Iran’s Unprecedented Flare-Up
Protesters have managed to take over or destroy hundreds of government centers, security outposts, and state-affiliated banks, gas stations and seminaries. The regime has resorted to brute repression, killing at least 251 protesters and arresting thousands more. It has also shut down Iran’s internet completely, blocking images of the protests from reaching the outside world.
Although the protests that began on November 15, 2019, were triggered by a three-fold rise in gasoline prices, within less than 24 hours, the chants became entirely political. Iranians are chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “Death to Rouhani” on the streets of Iran. They want regime change.
The event’s dimensions were unique. In the first six days alone, the protests spread to more than 148 cities in nearly all of Iran’s provinces. Protesters set fire to dozens of police stations and offices of the Supreme Leader’s representatives. The casualty figures are in the thousands. The protests frightened Khamenei to such an extent that his regime arrested more than 7000 protesters and implemented the largest internet shutdown in Iran’s history. For five full days, Iran’s internet remained down. The regime claims to be permitting some access, but the country remains cut off from the world to a great extent.
Anti-regime #IranProtests are continuing for a7th day in #Tehran&in 145 cities across #Iran, with at least 251 killed, over 3,700 people injured and more than 7,000 demonstrators were also arrested by the regime’s oppressive security forces.#MEK sources have reported.#FreeIran pic.twitter.com/vQXqzbui3l— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) November 21, 2019
Iran’s situation was ripe for such an uprising. The NCRI has long argued that Iran is like a powder keg, with the regime enjoying next to no popular support and unable and unwilling to resolve social crises. Iranian society resents the regime’s wasteful spending of national resources on the Revolutionary Guards’ regional wars in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen while failing to provide basic services at home. Iranians are completely against the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program, the goal of which is to prolong the regime’s life, and which has led to international sanctions. For decades, the regime benefitted from the West’s policy of appeasement. Perhaps its biggest lifeline came with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, better known as the JCPOA. With the change of policy by the current United States administration, that policy is now over. Major protests in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon are calling for the expulsion of Iran’s regime from the very countries it once hoped to incorporate into an ‘Islamic empire.’ Today, reeling under international sanctions, the regime is out of funds and out of options. But there is an additional internal factor as well.
The protests are organized by the Resistance Units of the main democratic opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), otherwise known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK). The MEK’s Resistance Units are risking their lives to bravely spur rallies up and down the country. It can begin with a simple roadblock or a risky chant on a busy pavement. With each spark, the general public, which detests the regime, eagerly join in. The regime, meanwhile, has mobilized its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the paramilitary Basij, suppressive state security forces (police), and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) to kill or detain protesters on the streets or at their homes.
Three years ago, in her speech to a huge Resistance rally in Paris, Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, put an answer to the question of how the Iranian people are going to materialize regime change?
“Our answer is with 1000 Ashrafs. That is a thousand centers of struggle against the religious dictatorship.”
The Resistance in Iran has been actively building those 1000 struggle centers, to which even the regime’s media have pointed in detail during the recent unrest.
If defying the rule of religious dictatorship &rising up to establish freedom, democracy and equality are considered mischief &insecurity for the mullahs’ regime, then #Iran’s rebellious youths, resistance units, &all the Mojahedin &freedom fighters are proud of having done so. pic.twitter.com/Nc8abR8tPn— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) November 21, 2019
“The behavior of rioters at the scene in several cities shows that these people have drastically changed their methods compared to the previous events (of 2017),” the Fars News Agency, affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) wrote on Monday. “Cells instigating violence have been arranged in three layers,” it said, adding: “In the recent events, trained people have been arranged in teams of five to seven.”
“Strong men are active in the first layer. They are protected by others on motorcycles in the second layer. But in the third layer, there are young women whose mission is to encourage people to join the revolt.”
No amount of assistance or appeasement by Western governments, despite their relative silence compared to the 2017 unrest, and no games of “reformists versus hardliners” will alleviate the regime’s pains. Nor will the wars and crimes in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, the regime’s nuclear program, its plunder of oil revenues, or even its plainclothes agents and the plethora of various hirelings of the Intelligence Ministry. In fact, events in Iraq and Lebanon leave no doubt as to the strategically weakened position of the mullahs in the region, heralding the decisiveness of similar events back home.
Iran’s religious dictatorship has reached the end of the line. Today, the cries of the people of Iran can be heard from the streets of Tehran, Isfahan, Kamyaran, Sirjan, Behbahan, Shiraz, Marivan, Bukan, Karaj, Khorramshahr, and Mahshahr. Iranians are crying out, “Dictator, shame on you, let go of our country.” They are chanting, “the mullahs must get lost.”
The harshest repression by the regime is only of short term effect. Iranians have taken to the streets because the regime has stolen their freedom, their livelihood, and their future. While Iran sits on a sea of oil, many ordinary Iranians are forced to sell kidneys and other vital organs to make ends meet. They have nothing more to lose. And they realize that the source of their suffering is the mullahs’ regime. So they shall stay on the streets, and even if forced out, would be back soon.
The international community’s silence and inaction is unacceptable. The UN Security Council must declare that the religious fascism ruling #Iran is engaged in crimes against humanity. #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/OaDue7i8Xq— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) November 19, 2019
Maryam Rajavi has called on the international community to condemn the regime’s crimes and recognize the right of the Iranian people to topple the religious, murderous fascism ruling Iran. Governments must set aside all considerations and reservations about the regime. They should demand an immediate halt to the killings and arrests. If the regime does not comply, they must readily pull the trigger of UN Security Council sanctions. The Security Council must declare the regime’s leaders as criminals committing crimes against humanity. They must face justice for this massive suppression and bloodshed. The international community must strongly condemn the mullahs’ terrorism on the internet and assist the people of Iran in circumventing this inhumane blockade.