The uprising in Iran has now crossed a major milestone, marking the second consecutive month and reflecting the nation’s determination not to rest until the clerical regime is overthrown. As many geopolitical experts, as well as middle east spectators, are speculating on the outcome of the uprising, the Iranian Resistance has been trying to provide insight into the socio-political roots of the current developments in order to explain the path ahead.
Here is an exclusive interview with Ms. Dowlat Nowruzi, the NCRI representative in the United Kingdom.
Ms. Nowruzi has been in charge of the Iranian Resistance’s office in the island for more than three decades, and she has successfully led many legal and political campaigns, working with both the Upper and the Lower Chamber in the UK.
In her interview, she explained:
– The state of the Iran Uprising
– The different prospects and outcomes
– The likelihood of mass demonstrations like the Shah-era
– The role of women in the revolutionary movement
– The role of the state armed forces
– The question about the regime’s alternative and the unity among opposition groups.
– The possibility of chaos in light of the political void once the regime is overthrown
Read the full version of the interview with the NCRI representative in London
Q: How do you assess the prospects of the current protests in Iran?
The outlook is clear from our point of view because there are objective conditions for change. The situation in Iran is such that change is inevitable. Before the recent protests, one narrative was that the people of Iran do not want another revolution. This was the narrative promoted by the Iranian regime, its lobbies, and supporters of the appeasement policy. But today, this narrative has been invalidated.
Of course, we are facing an oppressive regime, and nothing can be achieved automatically or spontaneously. Change in Iran does not happen by issuing statements in Paris, London, or Washington. Rather, the fighting force on the ground wants to stand against the brutality of this regime. We expect more repression and more crimes committed by the regime. But we believe that the conditions will not return to before the uprising. Therefore, the overthrow of the regime is closer than ever before.
Q: What is your strategy for the success of recent protests and regime change? What do you say to those who claim that the regime will suppress the protests this time, too?
As you know, the religious dictatorship in Iran, which leverages the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basij, brutally unleashed armed violence against the demonstrators from the very first day of the uprising. It fired live ammunition and used pellet guns, and beat the demonstrators to the point of death, especially the female leaders of the demonstrations.
The Iranian Resistance’s strategy of overthrowing the regime is based on the realities of Iranian society and the regime itself. The regime will definitely increase repression, and this is an important parameter. As I said, overthrowing this regime, above all else, requires activists on the ground who are ready to sacrifice and pay the necessary price. And as the next step, the key point is to organize these forces.
The Iranian Resistance has a multi-faceted strategy that relies on the people of Iran and specifically on the network of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) inside Iran, the focal point of which are the Resistance Units. Having this network gives us the power to access information and the power to organize anti-regime protests by different strata, including strikes, when the time comes.
The Resistance Units are the fighting force of this network. The characteristic of these units is that they are composed of ordinary men and women in society, including students, workers, nurses, shopkeepers, and government employees who live in their own homes. They are not underground or clandestine rebels. Rather, they are present everywhere. They play an active role in organizing protests, directing them, and prolonging them. Due to their presence in the social milieu, they have extensive resources and also great flexibility.
Today, these Resistance Units are an undeniable fact in Iranian society. In a confidential order by the IRGC dated October 19, 2022, which we revealed for the first time, there was a concern about an increase in “harmful actions by the elements of the MEK rebel Resistance Units,” and it ordered regime forces to confront them. On October 31, the legal deputy of the president of the regime expressed his concern in a different way and said that the MEK “is recruiting the youth of the country, and unfortunately, we see that some people in the country are supporting them.”
Despite the suffocating atmosphere of repression, these Resistance Units have expanded in numbers and solved their communication needs for joint actions while adapting themselves to external conditions. Within a year, these units grew by 500% despite widespread arrests. During the past few years, Resistance Units played a qualitative role in spreading the culture of Resistance, especially among the young generation, through their extensive activities. The impact of these activities, including burning and destroying pictures of Khamenei and Qassem Soleimani and other symbols of the regime, was clearly visible in the nationwide protests of the past 50 days.
The expansion of these units has also made it possible for them to form local and partisan protests in different cities and even in big cities in different regions, thus preventing the concentration of repressive forces. We have detailed reports that this tactic and the continuation of the uprising for 50 days have caused serious problems for the repressive forces of the regime.
In an interview on November 9, the regime’s Minister of Intelligence, Esmail Khatib, pointed to the role of these Resistance Units and said that the recent protests have a complex design and the focus was to disrupt the concentration of the regime’s forces. This is exactly one of the main reasons for the longevity of the protests. On November 11, the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC called on the population to spy on the MEK and Resistance Units and gather more information about them.
#Iran mullahs' different apparatus of intelligence issue warnings against tuning in to #MEK guidance and directives during #IranRevolution2022 .
Do you go out and put your life in danger upon a simple telephone call?
No, unless the call's from someone you absolutely trust. pic.twitter.com/EXkCE72gFA
— Aladdin Touran (@AladdinTouran) November 12, 2022
Dissatisfaction has grown among the lower levels of the State Security Forces, and we have seen some defections among them. So, to conclude: The regime can increase the repression even more. There can even be ebbs and flows. But Iran’s conditions will not return to those prior to when the protests began. The important point is that the developments and, in particular, the increasing number of young people joining the organized Resistance and, on the other hand, the increasing disillusionment within the regime, including its repressive forces, is an expression of the movement toward the inevitable shifting of the balance of power between the people and the regime, which will make overthrow even more accessible.
Q: There are massive protests going on in Iran, but can we expect large demonstrations of millions like the demonstrations against the Shah? If the majority of people are against this regime, why aren’t there demonstrations of millions of people?
Due to its repressive nature and the experience it has gleaned from the fall of the Shah’s dictatorship, this regime will do its utmost to prevent millions-strong demonstrations. At least 550 people have been killed, and more than 30,000 demonstrators have been arrested since the current uprising began. During the uprising of November 2019, more than 1,500 people were massacred by the repressive forces of the regime in the streets and hanged in public. And this is a regime that has executed 120,000 political prisoners over four decades, including the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 in the span of a few months. In its report in 2018, Amnesty International called this massacre an “ongoing crime against humanity.”
We are confronted with a regime that knows no bounds in repression and killing and commits any crime for its own survival. Khamenei knows better than anyone that if he stops torture, execution, and repression, within a few hours or, at most, a few days, millions of demonstrators will pour into the streets all over Iran and the overthrow of his regime is inevitable. The policy of this regime is maximum suppression and complete disruption of the Internet and communication channels in order to prevent people from joining each other and forming large demonstrations.
In view of this fact, we came to the conclusion that the right strategy to deal with brutal repression is to expand the fighting spirit and organization, and fortunately, we have valuable achievements in this regard, the effects of which we see in the continuation of the current protests.
Q: Women play a prominent role in Iran’s protests. What’s the reason? How did it happen that women are at the forefront and even leading this movement? And what is the position of your movement in this regard?
In our opinion, women are the driving force and force for change in Iran.
Regarding the reasons for the leading role of women in the current uprising in Iran, I can point to three parameters:
The first parameter is that the mullahs’ theocracy is a misogynist regime, which during the last four decades, has oppressed women the most. For this reason, there is a lot of motivation among Iranian women to change the regime.
The second parameter is the fact that over the past four decades, tens of thousands of Iranian women have been imprisoned, tortured, and executed for political reasons, mainly for their affiliation with the regime’s main opposition movement.
The third parameter is the main opposition force of Iran, the MEK, which has been led by women for more than three decades. Women in this organization at all levels of leadership have proven their abilities and competencies. The presence of these women in such a position has had its unique impact on Iranian society. The MEK, under the leadership of women, is the antithesis of fundamentalism both in action and in theory.
Currently, 57% of the members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) are women, and the President-elect of the NCRI is Mrs. Maryam Rajavi.
And as for our positions, Mrs. Rajavi announced years ago that, in our opinion, the criterion for democracy and progress in any society is the equality of women in different spheres, especially in key areas and political and economic decision-making.
Our Resistance, under the leadership of Mrs. Rajavi, has seen advancements in involving women to take on heavy responsibilities and by bringing them into the decision-making process and key positions for the realization of freedom, democracy, and equality against the religious dictatorship. This movement has taken great practical leaps in this respect.
Today, you can see its aftershocks in the increasing number of female leaders at Resistance Units who have played a very prominent (significant) role in the expansion and continuation of the uprisings of the Iranian people in all aspects and in more than 230 cities and all 31 provinces of Iran.
Q: What is the role of the army in the developments in Iran? Some say that it is possible to overthrow the regime only if the army supports the people. What is your opinion?
In Iran, there are two groups of armed forces one is the regular army, and the other is comprised of the IRGC and Basij and the nationwide State Security Forces. During the protests, we are witnessing dissatisfaction in the body of social forces. In practice, the main force of repression is the IRGC and Basij, who mostly enter the scene in plain clothes and not the official uniform of the IRGC.
In the regular army, of course, its civilian personnel have nothing to do with the regime, even though the regime appointed its commanders from its circle and even from the IRGC.
The IRGC is the most loyal force and the main pillar for the regime’s survival. Expecting the IRGC to change its stance is a mirage and does not match the realities of the IRGC and Iranian society. The IRGC is an appendage of the absolute clerical rule, and it only becomes relevant because of the existence of the Supreme Leader. After all, the IRGC is much weaker than it looks. It is rotten at its core. And it does not have the strength to stand against an organized force that relies on the Iranian people. The balance between the people and the regime is not determined by the number of armed forces. The Shah had the largest and most equipped army in the Middle East but was overthrown by the people nonetheless.
If you look at the history of Iran, unlike many countries in the region, the army has never had a decisive role in the process of development in Iran. Even in the 1953 coup against the national government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the role of the foreign factor was decisive and the army was used as a tool and not an independent element acting on its own accord. During the anti-monarchical revolution, the army was a tool in the service of the politics of the ruling elite, so even when the Shah had practically lost power, the army still did not play an independent role and acted as an appendage to the policies of the ruling body.
The overthrow of the regime is the duty of the people and their organized Resistance, but what the international community, and especially the European countries, should do is list and sanction the IRGC as a terrorist entity. And they have to recognize the struggles of the Iranian people and their right to overthrow this criminal regime.
Q: Another question that is raised is about the alternative to this regime. Is there an alternative? Some say that the problem lies in the lack of unity among opposition forces. What is your opinion?
The unity of the opposition forces is one of the essential elements of Resistance against a bloodthirsty dictatorship, especially the religious fascism ruling Iran currently. From the first day, this necessity shaped the philosophy and rationale for forming the National Council of Resistance of Iran. A coalition of groups, organizations, and different political tendencies and representatives of different nationalities in order to truly represent a significant part of Iranian society as much as possible. This unity already exists in the streets. The slogans of the people from Kurdistan to Zahedan and Tehran and all parts of Iran are the same. Denial of dictatorship in any form, whether it be a monarchy or theocracy.
November 15 – Mahabad, northwest #Iran
"Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or [Khamenei]!"
"Death to Khamenei!"
"Death to the dictator!"#IranRevolution2022#مرگ_بر_ستمگر_چه_شاه_باشه_چه_رهبر pic.twitter.com/57rQeUZfak
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) November 15, 2022
The Iranian people have had a very bitter experience with the anti-monarchical revolution. In the 1979 revolution, the people wanted freedom, democracy, and justice. But unfortunately, due to the suppression of the democratic forces by the Shah’s dictatorship, including the MEK leaders who were executed or in prison, Khomeini took advantage of this vacuum and hijacked the leadership of the movement. At that time, everyone asked Khomeini what his plan was, and his answer was one sentence. He said now is not the time for this kind of talk, “everyone has to unite with everyone.” It was a beautiful sentence, unity among all. And he said that he will go to Qom later and that he will have nothing to do with politics. So, he never went into details and never presented his program and point of view. Of course, the MEK was already familiar with his reactionary point of view, but it was not clear to the general public.
For this reason, our experience was that a coalition of different political orientations must be formed. The slogan of “everyone together” is attractive, but it should be based on agreed-upon common principles to which everyone is committed. For example, the necessity of negating the entirety of the regime with all its factions. This was a principle for the NCRI from the very beginning. We could not work with those who were still hoping that the religious dictatorship would moderate its behavior.
Another principle is the equality of all before the law. For this reason, the NCRI announced from the beginning that we believe in a free and democratic Iran where no one has special privileges over others. Therefore, we reject the Shah’s dictatorship and the religious dictatorship.
Another principle is transparency. From the very beginning, the NCRI announced its opinions and plans on the vital issues facing Iranian society. For example, the NCRI was against the continuation of the Iran-Iraq war after Iraq was no longer in Iran’s territory. This was an unpatriotic war, and Khomeini, with the slogan of conquering Jerusalem through Karbala, threw hundreds of thousands of people, including students, into minefields. We are proud of our policy. Those who supported Khomeini’s warmongering under the guise of sacred defense or defense of the motherland must answer today why they fanned the flames of a war that was against the interests of the Iranian people. And in return, they accused the MEK and the NCRI.
The NCRI believes in the right of self-determination for Iranian nationalities within the framework of Iran’s territorial integrity and has presented a specific plan regarding Kurdistan. Thirty-five years ago, the NCRI approved and announced the plan for equality among men and women in all spheres, as well as the denial of any privilege to those who convert to a particular religion or creed.
These are essential principles for a coalition. Due to these principles and the commitment of all its members, the NCRI is the longest-lasting coalition in Iran’s contemporary history, and on the other hand, people or movements that did not join the NCRI for various reasons were never able to form a coalition or their coalitions did not last more than a few months.
Q: Is there a possibility to stand with or unite with movements that are not in the NCRI?
Yes, this possibility has existed for a long time. In this respect, the NCRI has been a pioneer. The NCRI approved a plan entitled “National Solidarity Front” based on three principles: the rejection of the entirety of religious dictatorship, the establishment of a republic, and the separation of religion and state. In this plan, there are no special privileges for the NCRI and its members. In this plan, it is accepted that even on other issues that are very important from our point of view, there may be differences of opinion. These are the minimums that are necessary to create a united front to ensure the establishment of a real democratic republic based on free elections and a popular constitution.
Our goal is to establish freedom, democracy, and a republic based on democratic standards where all members of society have equal rights. No one should have special privileges or be deprived of equal rights due to racial, religious, or family affiliations. Therefore, I emphasize that the bitter experience of Khomeini’s usurpation of the anti-monarchical revolution tells us that any coalition must be based on common principles. Transparency is an inviolable principle.
Q: One of the concerns that are sometimes raised is that if the regime is overthrown, there may be chaos in Iran. It may become like Libya or Syria. What do you think about this?
The Iranian regime and its lobbies promote such a narrative, which aims to preserve the religious dictatorship. Comparing Iran to Libya or Syria is not an objective or apt analogy. There are different nationalities in Iran, but the integrity of Iran has never been doubted. Look at the recent demonstrations. From Kurdistan to Zahedan and to Khuzestan, Azerbaijan, and Tehran, they are all united. They chant, “From Zahedan to Tehran, I Sacrifice my life for Iran.” Or “Zahedan and Kurdistan are Iran’s bright lights.” Therefore, the composition and structure of Iranian society are completely different from the countries mentioned above.
Apart from that, there is a nationwide organized resistance in Iran with more than four decades of full-scale experience of struggle against the mullahs’ regime and with 120,000 political executions, which includes nationalities and followers of different religions and beliefs.
In addition to having a concrete program, the general outlines of which are presented in the ten-point plan of Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Resistance, the NCRI has 40 years of democratic experience with various schools of thought and has demonstrated its political maturity and organizational capability by remaining committed to its principles in the face of all regime conspiracies. A wide range of Iranian experts in different fields who are currently in European countries, the Americas, and Canada have close cooperation with the NCRI.
The Ten-Point Plan for Iran’s future
I have a dream: An Iran free of execution and torture, where stoning and amputation of limbs would be a thing of the past, where love, friendship and tolerance shall replace mistrust, hatred and vengeance#FreeIran2022https://t.co/T1dieUHt8i pic.twitter.com/pwyNFOjPMd
— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 18, 2022
In addition, the presence of the MEK and its strong organization with 57 years of fighting experience against the two dictatorships of the Shah and the mullahs gives this alternative the strength and ability to guarantee a smooth transition of power the day after the overthrow of the regime.