Iran is fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the most significant protest movement since the 1980s. Many thousands of activists assembled spontaneously across roughly 200 Iranian cities and towns in November 2019, after the regime’s authorities announced a sudden increase in the price of gasoline. Although sparked by economic concerns, the nationwide uprising turned out to be an unmistakable outlet for anti-regime sentiment in general, and for support of the country’s organized Resistance movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in general.
In this way, the November 2019 uprising followed much the same pattern as one that preceded it by less than two years. At its height in January 2018, that earlier uprising was widely regarded as the most significant up to that point. It encompassed approximately 150 localities and was especially noteworthy for being the first of its kind to include participation from residents of poor rural towns that mullahs had long portrayed them as the strongholds of political support for the clerical dictatorship.
The 2018 uprising also highlighted the leading role of the MEK. While the nationwide protests were still ongoing, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged that the MEK had “planned for months” to bring the uprising to fruition. This flew in the face of his regime’s longstanding insistence describing the MEK as a “grouplet,” once again confirmed that the MEK is a serious challenge to the mullahs’ hold on power.
The collapse of that propaganda narrative has continued at a steady pace ever since. At a ceremony marking the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year, Khamenei delivered a speech to his thugs in Basij militia, disguised as students, and urged them to be on guard against campus protests and specifically to help prevent them from being led by young adherents to the democratic platform promoted by the MEK. That ceremony took place last March, several months after the November uprising which made the supreme leader’s warnings to be justified.
But Khamenei was not speculating about future unrest based on the January 2018 uprising alone. Scattered protests had taken place throughout the entire year leading up to his Basij speech.
Iranian people showed their desire for regime change by chanting “death to the dictator” and similar slogans, even as the nationwide movement was momentarily oppressed as a result of authoritarian crackdowns that left dozens of peaceful protesters dead and thousands of innocent civilians in jail. The repression has continued without much abatement ever since. Many more arrests followed, and some have led to execution, including that of the renowned Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari, despite international outcries for halting his execution.
But this defiance of international will is only a desperate response to the Iranian people’s defiance of that same repression. As arrests followed the year of uprisings, the Resistance movement only continued to gain momentum, culminating in last November’s nationwide protests. To save their regime from collapsing, Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and other oppressive forces opened fire on protesters, killing at least 1500 people.
Many of its arrests took place at hospitals, where wounded protesters were barred from receiving treatment. And Iranian detention facilities are notorious for their denial of medical care, especially to victims of political imprisonment. Furthermore, the regime’s judiciary has a long history of carrying out some of its executions in secret, thus the number of November martyrs could be much higher than 1500.
The Iranian regime unquestionably maintains the world’s leading rate of executions per capita, but that record is based on a range of annual estimates, with many killings being exposed months after the fact by Resistance activists.
All of these factors clarify the extreme pressure that the Iranian people have been under for the past year. But the repression of dissent is a universal fact of life in Iran, and it had already intensified in the wake of the 2018 uprising. Clearly, that repression did nothing to seriously impede public expressions of dissent in the run-up to the 2019 uprising. And in fact, according to the NCRI President-elect, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi’s recent speeches at conferences on Iran’s situation, there have also been three other uprisings during the past three years.
While Iranian people are yearning for change and the regime is on the edge of collapse, most of the European governments still appear committed to longstanding policies of appeasement, with preservation of the 2015 nuclear deal as a top priority.
But to anyone who recognizes the explosive state that Iranian society is in today, that priority should come across as severely misplaced. Indeed, many international dignitaries said as much in virtually conferences that the coalition organized in September for the purpose of re-examining European policy toward the regime. In one such event, British MP Bob Blackman emphasized the notion that Tehran’s recent crackdowns on dissent are emblematic of the essential nature of the clerical regime. “We must end the appeasement policy and the illusion that moderates will emerge from the theocratic dictatorship,” he said.
At the same event, Irish Senator Gerry Horkan insisted that “Iran is on the verge of a revolution” that would eliminate the need for such false hope regarding moderation, and would instead usher in an altogether new government based on the democratic principles outlined in Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan for Iran’s future. “We must preempt any form of criminal and violent reaction by the regime,” Horkan added to the looming change is to be driven by the Iranian people themselves, and not by direct Western intervention.
On some level, Iranian officials seem to expect the same thing. This was reflected in the regime’s Supreme Leader’s warnings about an ascendant democratic Resistance movement, and it has more recently been reflected in statements from some members of the regime’s parliament like Ahmad Hossein Fallahi, who recently commented on social problems including but not limited to the worsening coronavirus outbreak by saying that the restive population has placed responsibility for all such problems “on the state and on the Supreme Leader.”
This popular disdain for the ruling system should be recognized throughout the world for what it is: a sign that the Iranian regime’s days are numbered.