As is traditional among ayatollahs, the current protests in Iran have been labeled as designed and supported by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. And as with any other protests in which people demand their basic rights, one side accused the other or not fulfilling their duties. This time it was hardliners who accused the so-called moderates.
Undoubtedly, what Tehran is failing to manage is an entire country plunged into a dark abyss of corruption and misery.
The labyrinth of proxies maintained by the Islamic Republic and the chasm of oligarchs’ pockets are costing so much that the toil of the Iranian working class cannot even provide basic food and shelter for their families.
This time, a new element has been added to the whole equation: it is not only the middle class university students and a group of elites that organized these protests, put on their masks not to be identified, and gushed into the streets. This time, the spurt of protesters is formed of the working class, who has nothing left to lose. The working class whose share of the pie goes to proxy wars and wrong-doers abroad.
It has been many days in row that the government has been organizing pro-government demonstrations. This level of continuity of such demonstrations is unusual, even during the anniversary of the revolution.
These pro-government demonstrations carry a clear message, one anyone who grew up in Iran knows by heart. There are no pro-government demonstration on this scale that are organic. In fact, if you work in any government sector, say a school, your absence from such pro-government protests means reprimand, and in some cases unemployment.
However, there is another message here, a new one: Tehran has reached the conclusion that this time a mere one or two days of pro-government demonstrations cannot extinguish the fire lit by the excessive pressures imposed on public.
It is worth mentioning that the protests have calmed somewhat, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government has started in on the usual deception, used in Iran for over three decades to calm people down: the marriage loan increased to 15 million tomans, the prices of some household and food items have been decreased and stabilized, and the officials call protesters’ demands legitimate on the one hand while reminding them what their fate could be through arresting and executing a couple of protesters.
Surely, any fundamental change in Iran depends on its people and the best way is an uprising, but one must bear in mind that such brutal establishments are not going to fall easily when they are supported by regional or international powers. Syria is a very good example; despite a nationwide uprising Assad’s regime is still there because of the support from Iran and Russia.
Whether the protests will be continued and eventually topple the Vilayat-e Faqih or not remains unclear and it depends on a variety of issues.
Iran’s regime is not a weak one to be easily toppled by organic protests. Plus, the Iran of 2017 is very different to the Iran of 1979.
Even if the military joins the people, the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), which controls almost all of the important sites, brigades and armed institutions, will not give up. So, even the organic protests will at some point need support of other groups or else the IRGC will create a bloodbath and continue spilling innocent blood until they win over the people.
As well, it is true that the people do start revolutions, but to succeed, the leadership gap must be filled. Almost all of the different ethnic groups in Iran share the same problem of lacking unity and leadership.
In any case of a regime change the issue of leadership might lead the country into absolute chaos. For instance, while the majority of Persians are united in denying any form of territorial partitioning of Iran, they are divided into many factions among themselves; simultaneously, the majority of the Kurds do not want to stay within a new Iran, but lack a strong force and unity among themselves, which is vital to attain the rights of the Kurdish people, one of which is walking the path of independence.
However, the recent protests have had a different impact on those enduring the Iranian regime’s harshness, both direct and indirect, in an everyday struggle. While the protests in 2009 were organized by middle class university students and directed by the political elite of the “Green Movement,” the recent ones were organized by people themselves. This time, it was the working class who rushed into the streets demanding the very basic rights of a human being. This time, the foundations of the regime were shaken by empty-handed working class Iranians, furious as a result of the announcement of an unfair budget – including hundreds of millions of dollars for the ayatollah’s institutions, and none for the survivors of the natural disasters, skyrocketing prices of basic household and food items, i.e. the price of eggs.
So, according to all of the evidence Iran’s ruling establishment is as fragile as eggshells.
The author has worked as human rights observer and journalist in Colombia, Iraq and Greece. In the past three years he has been working with refugees in Greece. Born in Iranian Kurdistan, he was exiled and now lives in Norway.
You can follow him on Twitter at @RamyarHassani, or email him at Ramyar.firstname.lastname@example.org.