Iran: mere unrest or actual revolution?

The recent protests in Iran, which many called a revolution, are the most significant wave of anger towards the dictatorial regime in Iran since 2009’s strikes and demonstrations. In one day, conflicts between the people and police forces spread to seventy locations in Tehran, eventually reaching 164 cities, in all 31 provinces, including 110 universities. The demonstrators came to the streets shouting slogans such as “Death to the dictator” and “We will fight, we will die, we will take Iran back.”

The videos that made it to social media show extreme police brutality—e.g., the police beat a woman and smash her head against the edge of the curbstone and beat a young man so brutally his death seems to be their object. The IRGC also opened fire on the crowd. They are fighting young girls who stand in front of a crowd of motor patrols or forcing the police force’s water cannons and armed patrol jeeps to retreat with their bare hands. Some Iranians are making Molotov cocktails to defend themselves. In many areas of Tehran and other cities, you can hear “Death to Khamenei” echoing from windows and rooftops at night for hours.

The street battles for the past 20 days, indicate that the regime’s repression apparatus is broke, and cannot deal with the people’s uprising. Its power weakening daily.

Ayatollah Khamenei dragged President Ebrahim Raisi over the finish line to stop a rebellion at the time of the elections. However, Mahsa Amini’s brutal murder shows Raisi failed to accomplish his mission.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Raisi tried to divert attention from the uprising by speaking primarily about the nuclear accord with America. He didn’t mention Amini’s death although he said earlier that it would be investigated.

Image: Protests in Iran. YouTube screen grab.

The riots, however, show Raisi has lost control of the narrative. The regime can no longer rely on news suppression or propaganda to make itself appear like a normal government that wants peace. Too many Iranians provably want regime change.

Suddenly, think tanks and experts are talking about regime change as if it’s really possible. Major European and American media outlets are also imagining the prospect. Part of this is because in this uprising, the people really are standing together, as well as forming organized groups challenging the regime. Moreover, the people, especially the young and women, are showing their willingness to face the Mullahs’ repressive forces. The Mullahs have responded by claiming that the protesters are essentially foreign agents.

What’s helped is that the world is paying attention to the uprising. Since it began, the people of Iran witnessed a wave of international and public support from all over the world. Many artists, scientific and academic figures, parliamentarians, and political figures have sent messages applauding the people’s desire for freedom:

All of them have a common message that the world must stand with Iran’s women and girls as they fight against extensive restrictions on women’s rights, against the violation of freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly, as well as against the incredibly cruelty of a police state that depends on the death penalty, extrajudicial executions, torture, and forced disappearance.

It appears that this uprising can lean to regime change in Iran. It’s to be hoped that all Iranians—whether teachers and educators, university professors, workers, farmers, businessmen, oil workers, students, nurses, or doctors—join the strikes to help the continuation of the uprising.

Hassan.Mahmoudi is an Iran & Middle East Political and Economic researcher.

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