Millions of young people continue to protest against the repressive hardline regime in Iran. At least 21 demonstrators have been killed, according to media reports. As 2018 begins, the question is ‘can the Islamic government to crush the latest democracy movement?’ It’s been eight years since the Obama administration turned away from Iran’s green movement and made a deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini hardliners.
Like the 2009 movement to oust the Islamic rulers where Nedā Āghā-Soltān gained worldwide attention after her death — it’s women who are leading the charge. While it may have been a sluggish economy (high unemployment and 40 percent increase in food prices) that sparked the initial round of protests, it is notably women, many of whom are shedding their hijabs, who are demanding an end to Sharia Law. For the past 40 years, women have been forced to live under Medieval based Islamic law. With the inception of the Internet, women are now able to communicate with the outside world by posting through social media the regime’s injustices like jail, torture, and executions.
The protests began in late October 2017 when the anti-government opposition ignored regime warnings and protested on International Cyrus Day. The date celebrates the ancient Iranian king who authored the world’s first human rights declaration.
Over the weekend, demonstrators pressured the government and gained important support from the West, including US President Trump. With the average age in Iran at 31, young people across the Islamic Republic took to the streets, risking their lives without weapons, chanting, “Death to Khomeini or dictator,” NOT “death to America.”
Meanwhile, social media, as well as, the Internet was restricted by the government, as confirmed by Tweets like this that blanketed the World Wide Web: “ Barzan Sadiq verified account @BarzanSadiq 16m16 minutes ago #Iran Protests.”
After ending 2500 continuous years of the Persian monarchy with the Islamic revolution of January 7-February 11 1978, relatives are telling their family members inside the US the end is near for the Islamic clerics ruling Iran as that momentous date approaches.
Expats who fled Iran 30 years ago after the fall of the Shah of Iran are jubilant. They are hoping to return home to take their rightful place alongside young people as witnesses to history in the hope Iran can restore its alliances with the West and regain control of their destiny.
Despite conflicting media reports, Iranians have found support with the Trump administration. Various departments within the US government have released statements showing support but nothing compares to the President’s UN speech that devoted much of the address to the Iranian people and their will to replace the Islamic regime. (Story here)
Right on cue, President Trump let his fingers to the Tweeting: Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump “More big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations! Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump 15h15 hours ago
And “Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE! And Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good! And Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”
Adding to that support was Vice President Mike Pence who retweeted @POTUS and said: “I stand w/ peaceful protestors in Iran who are speaking out for freedom & we condemn the arrests of innocents. The time has come for the regime in Tehran to end terrorist activities, corruption, & their disregard for human rights. #IranProtests.”
The New Year’s demonstrations rocked hardliners who were forced to release a statement on state-run TV: “Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people’s economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos.”
More signs of trouble ensnared Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani after former President Obama negotiated a nuclear deal that included unfreezing $150 billion in Iranian assets. But as the rightful owners of the money went to various state banks to withdraw funds, the money was gone, confiscated by the regime. Since then, more and more unarmed peaceful protestors took to the streets hoping the outside world was watching.
The regime also sent riot police to the university in Tehran that was quickly overcome by thousands of students. In an effort to regain control, the regime closed down streets, blocking anyone wishing to join the demonstration. The protesting even reached the city of Qom, the heart of Islamic law and where Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution took hold.
The protests also captured US diplomats’ attention. Christen Whiton, a senior fellow for strategy and public diplomacy at the Center for the National Interest and the author of Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War said, “Cheering those who challenge Iran’s regime isn’t just feel-good moralizing: it could be pragmatic statecraft that is an important part of the pragmatic realism that President Trump has sought to restore to American foreign policy. President Trump has the opportunity now to redeem the tragic mistake America made under President Obama in ignoring anti-regime protesters in Iran.”
Using US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s June 2017 comments, the State Department reiterated its support for change in the Islamic Republic. “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos… We are following reports of multiple peaceful protests by Iranian citizens in cities across the country. Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people.
The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”
The international event has finally forced the US media to discuss its implications. On CBS’s Face the Nation Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) said, “Iran is a real threat to the rest of the world. This is something that we can get together as Republicans and Democrats, you know and support, and work together on. We need to make sure that our European allies in Germany, and France, and England are following President Trump’s lead and showing that they support the Iranian people.”
However, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghasemi dismissed all discussions that Iran is in political trouble. “The noble Iranian nation never pays heed to the opportunist and hypocritical mottos chanted by the U.S. officials and their interfering allegations on domestic developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Another factor in the political cauldron is Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. When will the hardliners release the notoriously brutal protectors of the supreme leader?
According to the BBC, Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari told Iranian ISNA news: “If people came into the streets over high prices, they should not have chanted those slogans and burned public property and cars. Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behavior [sic] and pay the price. The spreading of violence, fear, and terror will definitely be confronted.”
While there is little doubt that the Islamic Republic will forcefully seek to end the massive country-wide protests for government change, pundits are speculating as to who would rule Iran if the Ayatollah and the elected president were to fall? Most insiders do not want the US to install an interim leader, and would rather see someone inside Iran take the helm.
Maybe the National Council of Resistance in Iran President Maryam Rajavi, or the leaders of the 2009 Green movement (aka the Persian awakening) Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, or perhaps those organizing the current protests which appear to be organic in nature without any clear leaders?
Looking back at US history with regime change, Iranians and Americans should agree to let the people in Iran decide the country’s fate.
Author’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as events change.
©COPYRIGHT 2018 KIMBERLY DVORAK – All Rights Reserved
Written by and submitted to the Federal Observer for publication by the author.
~ The Author ~
Kimberly Dvorak is a freelance writer who resides in San Diego. She has covered local, national and international news stories for more than 15 years. As a National political correspondent, she has lived and covered stories in Africa, Europe, South America and Asia for over two decades.