Shahriar Kia, a human-rights activist, political analyst, and member of the Iranian opposition — the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran — told Arab News that the protests, which began on Thursday, are a result of “over three decades of crackdown and plundering the Iranian people’s property and wealth by the clerics.”
He also claimed that the Iranian regime has spent “billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s money to expand their fundamentalism and terrorism across the Middle East, and to support the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.”
Now, Kia said, “the Iranian people have risen against the clerical regime in its entirety, demanding its overthrow. The people’s uprising in more than 50 cities reveals how the status quo, domestically and internationally, is ripe for regime change.”
Kia’s words echoed those of Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who said in a statement: “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
“Iranian protesters demand a free republic which respects its citizens’ equality and is based on separation of religion and state, where they can stay unharmed by poverty, unemployment and illness,” she said.
“I strongly believe that peace and stability in the Middle East and the world over will be possible only through regime change in Iran,” Kia told Arab News.
But if regime change is to happen, Iranians will likely pay a heavy price, as some have already.
“Fearing overthrow, and desperate to confront the popular nationwide uprising, the cleric’s inhumane regime has started blind killings, murdering more than a dozen protesters and detaining at least 1,000 individuals in the first four days of the uprising,” Kia said.
This is not the first time that Iranian regime has faced protests, but Kia suggested the current protests are on an unprecedented scale — there is, he said, a “nationwide” movement.
Kia noted similarities with the revolution that brought the current regime to power in 1979.
“Back then, all protesters targeted the Shah’s dictatorship, seeking to overthrow the pillar of the monarchy,” he said. “In the current uprising, the people are placing the clerical regime’s main pillar in their crosshairs — the supreme leader. They are chanting ‘Death to Khamenei’ and ‘Death to the dictator.’ The uprising has terrified the regime, resulting in losing control of the status quo.”
But while Kia believes the protesters have the strength to achieve their goal of regime change, he stressed the need for the international community to do its part. Iran has many enemies, both regionally and internationally, and Kia said it is time for them to step up.
“One reason the Iranian regime has been able to continue its crimes inside the country, and against nations across the region, has been the West’s appeasement policy vis-à-vis Tehran,” he said.
Kia singled out the administration of previous US President Barack Obama as particularly culpable in this regard, suggesting it “extensively added to this regime’s lifespan.”
“As the Iranian people flooded the streets in 2009 chanting ‘Death to Khamenei,’ Obama stretched his hand out to Iran’s mullahs in friendship,” he said. But now that President Donald Trump is in charge, Kia believes, “circumstances have changed.”
Indeed, Trump is publicly backing the protesters, taking to Twitter on Jan. 1 to state, “It is time for change.”
Still, Kia pointed out, strong words need to be backed by strong action.
“Of course, this policy must be completed with practical measures against repression inside Iran and abroad, and this regime’s meddling in the Middle East particularly Yemen, Iraq, and Syria,” he said. “I hope the West supports the Iranian Resistance to stop this regime’s increasing bloodshed. This will be the basis of the Iranian people’s relations with other countries in the future.”
As things stand, Kia said, regime change in Iran is now inevitable, with the regime trapped in a no-win situation.
“If they launch a widespread crackdown, the resistance will flare up, and continue until the regime is overthrown,” he said. “And if they don’t resort to oppressive measures, the demonstrations will only spread and again lead to the regime’s overthrow.
“The Iranian people and their organized resistance have made their decision,” he continued, “to forever rid the world of this regime.”