‘The Game Is Over:’ Behind the Ongoing Anti-Regime Protests in Iran
Protests against the ruling regime in Iran have now continued into July, with fresh demonstrations in the south and southwest of the country reported on Sunday night and Monday morning.
In fact, Iran has witnessed strikes and protests on a daily basis since December 2017. The first one took place in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city by population, and the most religious. It is a city where Ayatollah Sayyid Ahmad Alamolhoda, “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative, and Ebrahim Raisi, President Hassan Rouhani’s rival in the last election, hold indisputable power.
Now thousands of Iranian citizens have once again held mass protests in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran and in other big cities such as Tabriz, Shiraz and Kermanshah.
The larger protests that sprouted in June are a spontaneous response to Iran’s grave economic crisis, rooted in regime corruption and mismanagement. The people are telling the regime, “Leave Syria, think of us,” “Nor Gaza, not Lebanon, my life is for Iran,” and “Death to Palestine.” In growing numbers, Iranians are confronting the regime’s squandering of the country’s wealth — including billions of dollars unlocked by the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA — on its regional proxies. These include Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Islamic Jihad and others, whose aim is to destabilize the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse. The regime faces huge problems like double-digit inflation, a decreasing GDP, a large volume of government debt, the historic lowest value of the Iranian rial to the US dollar, high unemployment, and a growing crime rate.
What kind of government do the protesters want? Demonstrators in some cities chanted “Reza Shah, bless your soul,” praising the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi. The most important slogan, however, was “Reformist, Conservative: the game is over,” showing dissatisfaction with the entire regime. The people want regime change and neither reformists nor conservatives are their choice.
Today in Iran, groups of workers, educators, clinic personnel, farmers, and drivers gather in anti-regime demonstrations protesting against government policies and to show their hatred of the system.
Rejection of the ruling ideology of the Velayat-e-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists) is reaching its highest point. Recently, tens of thousands of Iranian accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms posted one simple message: #IranRegimeChange.
Scattered showers cannot make a river overflow, however. No revolution in the world has been a result of a one day rally. The revolution against the Iranian regime needs planning, needs leadership and needs alliances. Most of all it needs time.
That is why factors such as international pressure upon Iran’s regime, and global public support for the Iranian protestors, Iranians are vital for gaining success. For many reasons, Iranians are on the streets to protest against this regime every day. The US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May added enormously to the pressure on the regime, but the sooner the rest of the world discontinues its dealings with the mullahs, the greater the chance for the victory of these protests.
Kaveh Taheri is an Iranian human rights activist and journalist. A former political prisoner, he fled from Iran to Turkey, where he now lives as a refugee.