What defines Iran during the past year has been the continuation of anti-government protests and the increasing number of calls for regime change, not just reform on behalf of the mullahs. These protests began at the end of 2017 and have only continued to expand throughout Iran over the intervening months. It has shaken the mullahs and the regime, as their suppression tactics no longer appear able to make the Iranian people cower.
The social base of the protests is growing and primarily consist of those whom the regime describes as “the army of the hungry and unemployed”. Figures suggest that unemployment is at least 30%, although there are concerns that the number could be even higher. Among young people in Iran, the unemployment rate is over 50%. The overwhelming number of Iranians are living in a state of poverty, and the Iranian middle class has virtually disappeared.
In response to the perceived threat by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) opposition group, the regime has done what it believes is the best defense, which is a campaign of misinformation against the PMOI/MEK, which is one of the opposition groups that makes up the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
In spite of their terrorist acts, particularly throughout Europe, the regime is unable to halt the increasing prominence of the democratic alternative provided by the NCRI and the PMOI/MEK. This international presence continues to increase as the PMOI members were relocated from Iraq to Albania, where the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) agents have been caught spying on them.
An investigation by Reuters revealed that last month alone a Tehran-based agency has quietly fed propaganda through at least 70 websites to countries throughout the world. The lies that they are spreading were fabricated by the former Supreme Leader Khomeini, but they are still being used by the regime today.
The demonizing campaign involves the use of social media, dissemination of fake news, provision of grants for biased and slanderous reports, and even hiring reporters directly or through middlemen. All of these pieces depend on special sources, particularly individuals who claim to be “former members” of the PMOI/MEK. However, many of these individuals are in fact well-known agents of the regime and continue to spread its lies and focus on broadcasting the agenda of the mullahs and the Supreme Leader.
However, if the PMOI/MEK is not a threat to the regime, then why would they work so hard to discredit them? Why would they actively work to limit the influence of the opposition within Iran itself. Clearly, it is because the control and power of the regime is being weakened and no efforts of suppression are going to stop the demands of the Iranian people for regime change.
The mullahs fear the reality that regime change is possible with a viable democratic alternative. By attacking the opposition, they believe that it will help bolster their hold on the Iranian people, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
In a recent example of the regime efforts to discredit the PMOI/MEK and the NCRI, the German weekly Der Spiegel published a biased article regarding the democratic opposition on February 16, 2019. The article contained at least 60 lies and baseless accusations against the PMOI and its members currently living in Albania.
Individuals are raising concerns, not only about the article’s contents but how the information was gathered and vetted. What is particularly troubling is the fact that none of the human rights abuses that are occurring within Iran itself are mentioned.
The economy is failing, in large part due to the mismanagement and corruption of the regime, yet the Iranian leadership is choosing to focus their efforts on repression instead of addressing the concerns and needs of their people. Corruption and mismanagement continue to abound, and the regime only makes token shows of trying to appease the Iranian people and their concerns.
In addition to domestic repression, the regime has also increased its terror campaign, particularly in 2018. There have been multiple terror plots, misinformation, and demonizing of the opposition in the media and through social media campaigns. Accounts from social media platforms were deactivated after their ties to the regime were uncovered.
These terror plots include assassination attempts on leaders and members of the PMOI/MEK, an attempted bombing at the June Free Iran rally that was held in Paris. The attendance at the rally included supporters of the NCRI and the PMOI/MEK. The plot that was thwarted was traced back to members of the MOIS, who were using diplomatic credentials to gain access to Europe.
The terrorist efforts of the regime have only confirmed that power and control are the focus of the mullahs and that the Iranian people will continue to suffer while they remain in power.