Iranians have had enough of this bankrupt regime
The Iranian regime has been hit by another wave of anti-government protests. People in dozens of towns and cities in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan are the latest to rise up against the regime. Multiple young demonstrators have been reported killed by security forces. But still the protests, which began on July 16, have continued every night. In addition, there is a nationwide strike by temporary workers in the essential oil and gas industry.
The Iranian leaders are facing significant pressure domestically. The protests demonstrate that the regime is weakening drastically at home, even as external pressure is being reduced. Every day, the domestic situation resembles revolutionary circumstances, the ruling theocracy becomes more isolated, and organized democratic oppositional groups gain ground.
All the ingredients are there to support democratic change in Iran. Let us begin with the situation inside the country. To date, the coronavirus disease has taken the lives of at least 300,000 people, according to independent tallies. Not only has the regime completely mismanaged the crisis, it has also banned the import of vaccines from Western countries in order to boost the profits of drug cartels that promise to produce domestic “vaccines.”
The economy is in tatters. Manufacturing is facing a historic period of stagnation, unemployment rates are astonishingly high, inflation is spiraling out of control, and the average Iranian’s purchasing power has been drastically reduced thanks to the regime’s enormous corruption and economic mismanagement. According to a regime official, about 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. To cap it all off, people’s access to basics such as potable water, electricity and clean air is becoming more challenging by the day.
This is why almost every sector of society is now protesting against the regime in one form or another. In addition to students, teachers, farmers, defrauded investors, nurses and workers, people of all stripes are protesting against the regime because of daily power outages or a lack of drinking water. Basic infrastructure, neglected for decades by the regime, is literally falling apart.
Access to basics such as potable water, electricity and clean air is becoming more challenging by the day.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The second ingredient is the regime’s own critical situation. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last month ensured a mass murderer won the presidential election, with devastating results. Ebrahim Raisi’s victory came amid an unprecedented nationwide boycott of the sham presidential election, with the Iranian people resoundingly voicing their rejection of the entire regime. Raisi has been condemned internationally for his heinous past. He was instrumental in the brutal crackdown on the 2019 nationwide uprising, which resulted in at least 1,500 demonstrators being killed. And he was also a key player in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, the majority of whom were members of the main resistance movement Mujahedin-e Khalq.
By installing such a cruel monster, Khamenei showed that he has been forced to purge all rivals, including the mythical “moderates,” and create a unified theocracy as the population encircles the regime. But this outcome will only intensify the Iranian people’s anger and aggravate the already unmanageable levels of infighting within the regime. Khamenei has chosen a dangerous path, but he has done so because he is weak and at an impasse.
Finally, Iranian opposition forces abroad are gaining strength. For example, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is considered the most organized Iranian opposition group, flexed its muscle this month by organizing a worldwide conference called the Free Iran World Summit 2021. It featured speeches by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and current Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, while connecting 50,000 locations worldwide and featuring 1,000 members of the “resistance units,” who lead the organization of protests against the regime. More than 1,000 international dignitaries, including heads of state, dozens of parliamentarians, members of the US Congress and decorated former officials, expressed support for the NCRI’s vision of a democratic, secular and non-nuclear republic in Iran.
The breadth and resilience of the recent protests in Khuzestan and other provinces are staggering. Despite the pandemic, the regime’s pervasive suppression and Khamenei’s installment of Raisi as president to frighten the population, the Iranian people are rising up, while the organized resistance movement is marching in tandem. Iran is ripe for democratic change. The regime is weak and is becoming more isolated by the day. The international community should support the people by piling pressure on the murderous regime. Condemnations of the killing of peaceful protesters are hardly enough. The world, especially the US and Europe, must declare the 1988 massacre to be a crime against humanity and launch an investigation in order to prosecute Raisi for his role.
The international community must act and the Iranian regime’s human rights dossier must be tabled at the UN Security Council; otherwise it will use its impunity to commit more atrocities against a population that is clearly rising up. It is time for the Biden administration and the EU to confront the regime.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh