The turmoil continues in Iran in an unprecedented manner. The people of Iran, fed up from decades of suppression and the mullahs’ corrupt policies, are raising their voices in every corner of the country. What is happening to some extent is reminiscent of early 1978. On December 31, 1977, US President Jimmy Carter said in Tehran “Iran is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” Hardly anyone in the West questioned President Carter for his remark. It was the false notion that had been assumed as concrete fact. Even months later, when the country was engulfed in daily protests against the Shah, the CIA reported, “Iran is not in a revolutionary or even pre revolutionary stage.” The West refused then to see the realities of Iran.
On Sunday, May 27, 2018, a large funeral ceremony for famous Iranian cinema star, Naser Malek Motiei, turned into an anti-regime demonstration. The participants chanted: “Death to the dictator, Hail to Naser” and “Our (state) radio and TV is a disgrace”. In a clear confrontation with Khamenei over his oft-used word of “dignity” they chanted “Dictator, look, dignity is bestowed by God,” sarcastically saying to the regime’s Supreme Leader that dignity is something he doesn’t have, but Malek Motiei did.
This week, Hassan Rouhani, the regime’s President, invited a number of artists to an Iftar reception in the month of Ramadan. Several artists published their invitations on Instagram and said we will not take part in this reception while the country is in such a state, where people are suffering and Rouhani has failed to deliver any of his hollow promises. One artist wrote, instead of inviting me invite the political prisoner Atena Daemi who is in jail only for defending human rights.
A nationwide strike by truckers has continued for over a week. These protests have expanded to 242 cities in all of Iran’s 31 provinces. With no end in sight for the ongoing strikes, various parts of Iran’s economy are feeling the impact. Many petrol stations are empty with dozens and hundreds of cars forming queues, yet frustrated people in the queues are supporting the truckers’ strike. In a country where there is no independent trade union, such a nationwide strike is indicative of a new era where people are getting more organized to pursue their demands.
In May, the southern city of Kazerun saw massive protests against the regime. Despite IRGC and Security Forces’ suppressive measures and even firing on the protesters, leading to four deaths and injuries to many more, the protest continued. The funeral of the martyrs turned into yet another anti-regime protest.
Just in one week, ending May 27, more than 489 acts of protests took place against the regime in various cities of Iran, with an average of 69 protests per day. There were 33 labor protests, nine plundered investors’ protests, four retirees protests, one case of a teachers protest, four student protests, three cases of political prisoners protests, 406 protest movements by truck drivers, and 29 protests by other sectors of the society.
There have also been reports of a strike in some parts of the Tehran Bazar and several other cities. In protest to the stagnation of the market, which stems from the Iranian regime’s policies, parts of the Tehran market including: Jafari Market, Soltani Market and Amir Kabir Market, and some shopping centres as well as parts of the Qom, Isfahan, Jolfa and Maku markets were on strike, and shops were closed. In Baneh and couple of other cities in Kurdistan, shops were on strike for three weeks, forcing the regime to accept some of the protesters’ demands.
The list of protests goes on and on.
After the December and January uprisings, which suddenly flared and spread across more than 140 cities in Iran, the regime tried to create an environment of terror by identifying and arresting protesters and murdering them in prison under torture. But, the crisis is much deeper rooted. The continued protests are rooted in poverty, unemployment, drought, government corruption and suppression, and they will not die down until those grievances are addressed.
One important change is the revival of hope among the people of Iran for regime change. They feel that the regime is losing its grasp. Indeed, the regime’s survival has now turned into an open discussion among its internal factions.
Another major change is the level of organization in these protests. The regime’s officials constantly express their concern about the role of the PMOI (MEK) network in organizing or fomenting these protests. An internal report about the protests in Kazerun concluded that the MEK network is taking advantage of the people’s grievances, and that it had turned them into political protests against the regime.
Notwithstanding the US sanctions, in such circumstances, Europe must think twice before making any financial investment in Iran or political investment on any faction within the regime. The people of Iran have made up their mind. This regime must go and will go. Europe should not replace the US of 1978 with unabated support for the regime. Hassan Rouhani is a burnt card. Betting on him is like betting on a dead horse.