by Staff writer, SF
During the uprising of 2009, the Iranian people asked that the government count their votes. There were no chants for regime change, just the demand for fair and free elections. But today, the people’s protests have taken on a new and distinct character.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh writes, “People, particularly farmers and workers, began publicly criticizing both the moderates and hard-liners, and many Iranians demanded that the ruling clerics step down from power.”
The protests that have taken place over the last two weeks shared the economic, political, social, and economic grievances that sparked the demonstrations that erupted at the beginning of the year.
Chants such as “strike, strike,” and “we are all together,” or “let go of Syria, think about us,” as well as “close your stalls,” joined those of “No Gaza, No Lebanon, my life for Iran” which rang through the streets of Tehran, and across the county.
According to Dr. Rafizadeh, it is worth noting “that the latest protests also brought a new character to the unrest, which can be perceived as a threat to the Iranian regime.”
Most importantly, the middle class has joined the lower socio-economic class of Iranian society. Many of the protesters and merchants are considered to be part of the middle class. Therefore, some policy analysts and scholars argue that it is only Iran’s labor class who has grievances against the political system — but it is evident that not only the poor are suffering.
Many historians, political scientists and social theorists agree that one of the major prerequisites for a fundamental social or political change is the rise of the middle class against the ruling political establishment.
“When the middle class is economically and socially blocked from progress by the state’s apparatuses — due to political repression and the state’s controlled, monopolized and stagnant economy — vital and potentially fatal challenges will sooner or later arise against the ruling political and religious establishment, no matter how powerful the regime is,” writes Dr. Rafizadeh.
Another significant issue is that the latest protests occurred in the capital, Tehran. Iranian leaders protests in Tehran because, historically, changes in Iran happen when people from the capital rise against the regime.
Further, the protests that occurred recently in the Grand Bazaar are critical because it is home to conservative and religious people. These people have made up the critical support and social base for the clerical establishment since 1979.
The United States and countries in the region have been putting political and economical pressure on Tehran, and supporting the Iranian people’s grievances. Many dissidents in exile are urging the international community to hold the Iranian regime accountable and responsible for human rights violations and the suppression of basic freedoms.
Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), saluted the brave protesters for their uprising against high prices, corruption, and the looting of Iran’s assets by the regime. She called on all shopkeepers, tradesmen, and merchants throughout the country to support and join the protesters. “The currency crisis and unprecedented high prices, which has imposed a burdensome pressure on the overwhelming majority of the people of Iran, is the outcome of the policies of the ruling religious fascism,” she said. “From the beginning, they have wasted the assets of the Iranian people, either by spending on domestic repression, nuclear projects, export of terrorism and fundamentalism and warfare in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and other countries in the region, or have been looted by the regime’s corrupt leaders.”
Dr. Rafizadeh believes the the Iranian leaders should be worried, because the people’s disenchantment has reached perilous levels. “The unrest is taking on a new character with the inclusion of various socio-economic classes, including the middle and labor classes. People from cities and towns, as well as the capital, are fed up with the system. All these signs point to the potential that the hold on power of Iran’s ruling clerics is at a dangerous crossroads if the leaders don’t adequately and immediately address the people’s demands and grievances,” he writes.