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The Iranian People’s ‘Right to Rebel and Self-defense’


In Iran, the showdown between protesters and regime security forces continues. The uprising was sparked by the death of a young woman who had been arrested by the regime’s so-called morality police in mid-September.

But as the protests quickly metastasized, they began to reveal simmering dissent against decades of state corruption and oppression. In their slogans, people directly targeted the theocratic regime itself. Today, demonstrations have swept almost the entire country, creating one of the most serious challenges against the regime in the four decades of its tyrannical rule.

Over 190 cities have risen up so far, with at least 400 protesters killed and 20,000 more detained by the regime. Some workers in the critical oil and gas industry have gone on strike in solidarity with the protests. The expansion of the general strike to other sectors of the battered economy has amplified major threats to the fragile regime’s stability.

It must be particularly worrying for the rulers that the demonstrations cut across all ethnic and religious divides and that they are being supported by people from all walks of life. After four weeks of persistent and determined nationwide demonstrations against clerical tyranny, the country has now entered a new era of change.

Although the Iranian people have always harbored a deep resentment against the ruling mullahs, previous rounds of protests against the regime might have been sparked by more focused economic grievances. This time, however, people came out into the streets demanding their most fundamental rights and freedoms while pointedly calling for the “end” or overthrow of the entire regime.

Since usurping political power in 1979 following the people’s anti-monarchical revolution, the mullahs have repressed an array of basic freedoms while denying the Iranian people their most rudimentary human rights. At every turn since then, the regime has responded to people’s calls for change with unimaginable brutality and violence. In November 2019, after rising fuel prices inflamed the already-enraged population, triggering nationwide protests, the regime killed at least 1,500 people. Many more were tortured or disappeared, according to Amnesty International.

Prior to that, in 1988, the regime viciously massacred 30,000 political prisoners in the span of a few short months. The victims were sentenced to death during minutes-long kangaroo courts simply because they demanded freedom and democracy. None of them was originally sentenced to death. The regime wanted to avoid having these heroes and heroines influencing the broader society after they were released. So, it decided to annihilate all of them in a horrific act of genocide and crime against humanity.

In the current uprising, the brutality of the regime reached a new height. The repressive forces are directly targeting the crowds. Young girls and boys are arrested and beaten to death. Video clips of beating protestors in the streets have shocked the world.

After experiencing all these crimes and violence against an unarmed and defenseless population, what recourse is available to the people of Iran? The regime has refused to listen to the people and has shown in practice that it only understands the language of firmness and force.

The only answer for bringing the Iranian population out of the depths of misery, violence, and murder is to exercise their ‘right of self-defense and their ‘right to rebel against tyranny.’

History of human thought is replete with references to the natural right of oppressed peoples to revolt against tyrants in pursuit of fundamental rights and freedoms. Philosophers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau formulated a sound and convincing arguments that continue to justify the exercise of the right of self-defense and revolution.

These ideas and principles continue to penetrate the spirit of modern thought around the world. The American Declaration of Independence decried the tyranny’s “long train of abuses and usurpations” at the time, while Thomas Jefferson explained that it was not only the people’s right but their duty to overthrow that repressive government.

As protesters and dozens of kids as young as 11 are being murdered in cold blood by the brutal regime, the Iranian people have a right to defend themselves. As stated in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they “have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression.” As the late John F. Kennedy added, “Those who make a peaceful change (reform) impossible, make a violent change (revolution) inevitable.”

Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Though violence is not lawful when it is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.”

The conclusion is clear, legitimate, and worthy of backing. The right to resistance against an illegitimate regime that persistently kills, and tortures is among the oppressed Iranian people’s inalienable rights. Before more lives are lost tragically, the international community must quickly and urgently side with the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom, and democracy and acknowledge the Iranian people’s right to self-defense and to resistance against the ruling tyranny. Practically, it should support the Iranian people by imposing maximum pressure on the brutal theocracy that oppresses them while providing the tools for the people to freely access the internet.