The situation in Iran has become so unstable that even the state-run media have been unusually forthright about the reasons why the threat of uprising is so evident.
An article in the state-run media website, Setareh Sohb, on 1st August, is a typical example of the warnings that are increasingly appearing on such websites. The article warns that national demonstrations will happen again and again because the underlying reasons for discontent have not been addressed by the Iranian regime.
The #Iranian regime is extremely concerned about the possibility of another nationwide uprising. The people of Iran are so angry with the country’s leadership for a whole host of reasons. https://t.co/YnwMh66hsR#Iran #MEK #COVID19 @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/480xs8ORYc
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) May 18, 2020
The article in Setareh Sohb indicates that there is an awareness that an uprising will happen regardless of the violent and repressive tactics of regime forces.
This is precisely what happened after the January 2018 protests, even though many people were killed. The regime reacted even more viciously during the November 2019 protests, leading to 1,500 protesters killed and many more arrested.
After the protests, the MEK reported figures of 1,500 deaths and Amnesty International confirmed the report. Amnesty also stated that they had evidence that paramilitary forces deliberately opened fire on protesters, intending to kill them. The regime’s Judiciary followed up arrests, issuing death sentences on many of the prisoners.
Political & economic experts of the regime in #Iran are constantly asking the question: To what extent the Iranian society can tolerate this? Many warn an uprising at the scale of the Dec 2017 & Nov 2019 unrests—or maybe bigger—is looming on the horizon.https://t.co/xtAAYEVXt9
— People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) May 18, 2020
While the 2018 uprising was taking place, the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, named the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) as the chief protagonists, signing a death sentence on anyone who might have been associated with the organization.
A fatwa previously issued by Khamenei’s predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini, served the death sentence on MEK members back in 1988. The fatwa alleged that anyone opposing the theocratic regime of the mullahs was an enemy of God. This meant that all protesters could be charged with the crime of “enmity of God” and duly sentenced to death.
Death commissions were established to interrogate suspects and summarily ‘convict’ them of a crime. Those who refused to toe the line were slaughtered and secretly buried in mass graves. The MEK estimates that over 30,000 members and supporters were killed by regime forces over a few months. The fact that the regime could kill so many protesters last November is an indication that they could just as easily resort to mass slaughter all over again.
It may be harder for the regime to go down the same path. Details of the 1988 massacre are now well known and not just in Iran. Khomeini’s son, the supposed successor to the Ayatollah, released an audio recording admitting that the slaughter had taken place (in 1988) and condemning what had happened as the “worst crime of the Islamic Republic.” The son, Hussein-Ali Montazeri, was ousted from his position in the regime and those who had been involved in the massacre were promoted to positions of influence and power in the regime.
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) May 22, 2020
Iranian protesters have known all along of the dangers to their own lives and liberty of being seen to be involved in any form of protest against the regime. The fact that so many are prepared to risk being killed is something that the article in Setareh Sohb emphasizes.
Another state-run media outlet that also recognizes the danger of another uprising is the state-run newspaper, Asre Iran. It compared the unresolved dissent within Iran to the store of ammonium nitrate fertilizer left for years in a Beirut poet warehouse before massively exploding. The newspaper article says that without radical changes to the way the regime is behaving, protesters could even end up overthrowing the regime “with the passage of time and the arrival of ripe circumstances.”
Both the January 2018 and November 2019 protests were triggered by economic factors. Currency inflation, rising unemployment, and a sudden steep increase in the cost of gasoline were the main ingredients behind the protests. January 2018 was when the cry of “Death to the Dictator” became a slogan to be first used in earnest. The slogan epitomizes the main objective of many Iranian protesters to achieve regime change and throw the corrupt mullahs out of office.
Today, so many ordinary works in Iran are receiving wages well below the poverty line that the choice of dying of starvation or dying on the streets protesting becomes an easier choice to make.
Tehran has decided to force Iranians to make sacrifices to stay in power. The inept handling of the economy has been accompanied by an incompetent response to the pandemic sweeping through Iranian cities. People are dying of starvation and disease as a result. Ali Khamenei, who personally sits on a fortune estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars, only begrudgingly released a token billion for use for combating the virus. Even then, only a third of the money allocated has reached the health system.
Mullahs’ Fear an Uprising and Regime Change in #Iran
Following the U.S. sanctions on the Iranian regime’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the officials of the regime, one after another voiced their fear of their current situation.https://t.co/B2Sm6dpkjv pic.twitter.com/FI8OvEoJT3
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 15, 2019
It is unlikely that exhortations b the state-run media for the regime to change tack will lead to anything substantial. The Iranian resistance movement has stated that the only way true progress will come to Iran is if the regime is overthrown and replaced with a democratic, secular alternative that respects free and fair elections. The next uprising may be the event that establishes just that.