The recent protests in Iran have shaken the regime, driving the leadership, particularly the Supreme Leader, to find a way to place blame for the unrest on anyone else. Initially, the focus was foreign powers, particularly Western nations, such as the United States. The Trump administration has targeted the regime, calling for additional sanctions and even calling for emergency meetings in the UN related to the protests and unrest.
The Iranian state-television reported on Friday that Iranian security forces arrested three suspected #MEK members, charging them with being involved in sabotage activities, but no other details were released. According to a report by the Iranian opposition, 35% of those arrested are students and 90% of the detainees are under the age of 25.
The MEK is the main opposition group in Iran, and a part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The NCRI has increased in #international platform, calling for regime change and supporting the Iranian people during the protests.
Shahin Gobadi, an MEK spokesman based in Paris, indicated that he had no knowledge of any arrests. “The MEK has never resorted to sabotage,” said Gobadi.
Online images and videos from the activists share a small part of what happened during the protests. The #regime actively worked to block social media sites and limit the ability of average #Iranians to gather. The government’s move to block Telegram may have seriously curtailed protesters’ ability to organize. The app boasts an estimated 48 million users in Iran, more than half the population.
“Cyberspace was kindling the fire of the battle,” said Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, at a gathering in Tehran. “When cyberspace was closed down, the sedition stopped. The nation does not support a social network that has its key in the hands of the United States.”
The Iranian regime has one of the strictest censorship policies in place, particularly as it relates to the internet and social media. Pro-government rallies were also organized, and some argued that the regime was behind these rallies.
The protests are a reaction to economic conditions and high unemployment, but there are many who argue that it is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sanctions fueled the weakening of the economy, but the lifting of sanctions has not brought the economic relief that was promised by the Rouhani government and the regime.
Although the regime’s #president indicated that the Iranian people should have the right to protest, there have been clear indications that the mullahs have used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the police to limit the activities of the protestors. Multiple arrests have been made and the regime is clearly trying to continue its repressive activities to limit the ability of the #Iranian people to gather and speak out. Those arrested potentially face the death penalty, according to the IRGC.
There is no central figure to the protests, but it is clear that those involved have little to lose. Unlike the 2009 protests, these have been more violent and have a much larger reach across the country. President Rouhani has condemned the violence, but not acknowledged the regime’s role in continuing the violence through the IRGC’s tactics.
Other governments have also shown their support for the #Iranian protestors, including #Canada. The Canadian government released a statement that read in part, “Canada is encouraged by the Iranian people who are exercising their basic right to protest peacefully. We call on the #Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights. Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of Iranians, including the right to freedom of expression.”
There are also those who have indicated that the Iranian people hold the key to peace in the Middle East by removing the regime. “The Iranian people hold the solution to the northern axis. A collapse of the Ayatollah’s government would free the Iranian people from tyranny and implode the Shia-focused terrorist operations throughout the region. Shia militias and death squads in Iraq would no longer be funded and armed by Tehran. The Assad regime in Syria would cease to exist. Hezbollah operations in Syria and Lebanon would be greatly diminished. The long-term Tehran-backed threats against Israel and Jordan would disappear,” said Wes Martin, a retired U.S. Colonel in the U.S. Army, in an op-ed piece.
A part of the trigger of the latest unrest was the leaking of the Iranian government budget, which cut subsidies to the Iranian people, but boosted funds to religious institutions and the IRGC.
“The world will be a far better place without the Islamic Republic of Iran, and change is coming, whether today or tomorrow. We are right to seize the opportunity to encourage change and actively support the aspirations of millions of Iranians for freedom from tyranny,” said Baria Alamuddin, editor of the Media Services Syndicate and a journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the U.K.
It is clear that the regime can continue to blame others, but the reality is that the protests are a response to the actions of the mullahs and they must deal with those consequences.