Iran: The people will not return to their homes

Issue 
Anti-government protests in January.

In recent weeks, a new wave of protests and demonstrations in the streets, civil disobedience and strikes in factories has been sweeping all over the cities and towns of Iran, writes Reza Akbari.

This follows the protest wave in mid-January, when the people, infuriated by the high cost of living, corruption, nepotism, inequality and injustice flooded into the streets, crying out their discontent and anger.

This fury has been gradually building up since the first days of the Islamic revolution in 1979. However, the government has been able to control and divert this anger in other directions. This includes engaging in a futile eight year war with Iraq that claimed more than 1 million lives on both sides, creating an atmosphere of terror and fear by imprisonment, torture and firing squads.

From the first day of the Islamic Republic’s hijacking of the people’s revolution against the Shah’s dictatorship in 1979, illegitimate child of the marriage between the capitalism and theocratic rule has used any means needed to confront and destroy all left or liberal movements.

George Ball, a US diplomat during the Jimmy Carter presidency in 1979, recommended pulling back US support from the Shah’s regime and back a government of Ayatollah Khomeini. The aim was to best suppress the growth and development of a leftist movement in Iran and prevent a possible intervention of Russia in the internal affairs of Iran during the Cold War.

This was also in accordance with the policy of a “Green Belt” (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran) around Russia as part of the Cold War.

In power, the Islamic regime of the Ayatollahs arrested, tortured and raped whoever dared to say anything against their authority. They murdered their opponents to shut down any opposition.

Just a few months after the overthrow of the Shah, they attacked the Kurds with jet fighters and tanks, and bombarded and massacred innocent people in the cities and villages of Kurdistan within the Iranian state.

The regime denied the human rights of women in all aspects of their life, including the right to choose their own clothes. Women were forced to wear “hijabs” and anyone who refused to was sacked from their workplace or was denied the right to study.

Khomeini’s regime sent social and political activists to firing squads without recourse to formal judicial processes. Political prisoners were sentenced to death in less than a few minutes.

When the regime was shaky and in political turmoil, it used war to divert attention and took the opportunity to brutally abolish opponents. People as young as 13 were sent to firing squads for possessing a pamphlet or a newspaper supporting opposition groups.

Young women were raped prior to execution. About 20,000 political prisoners who were serving their sentences were massacred in prisons in the summer of 1982. This is on top of many other crimes against humanity, and millions of Iranian youths sacrificed at the altar of capitalism and the owners of arms industry, all in the name of Islam.

The regime sought to export its brand of Islamic fundamentalism through intervention and engaging in “Holy Wars” around the globe, from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Palestine to Yemen and from Syria to the coasts of Africa.

This is only a glimpse of what actually happened in the everyday lives of ordinary people of Iran; their basic human rights have been repeatedly ignored and denied on a regular basis, most prominently women.

The accumulation of wealth in the hands of a minority in Iranian society. This is specifically those who are connected with the government or the “Sepah”, (the ideological militia of the Islamic regime, who have control over 80% of all investments, exports and the financial markets of Iran) or the spiritual leader (who has his own organisations and establishments, even more powerful than the formal government, and who rules the country from behind a curtain).

This has resulted in such a horrible and extensive gap between rich and poor, oppressors and oppressed. An uprising was, therefore, predictable.

These days, people looking for food in rubbish bins in one of the richest countries of the world — rich in immense oil reserves and other valuable natural resources — has become an ordinary scene of life in the streets of Tehran and other major cities.

Meanwhile, a minority, mainly children or relatives of politicians and state officials are driving around in the latest model Porsche or Mercedes in the same streets. They live in mansions that remind one of the legendry palaces of A Thousand and One Nights stories.

The government successfully suppressed a huge student movement of 1999. In 2009, further social unrest broke out, stemming mainly from the middle classes during the rigged elections that year. Any moves towards democracy have been shut down by the Iranian regime for nearly 40 years.

However, in the unrest this year, it is the poor who have stepped into the arena. They are seeking bread and butter for their tables; they ask for their share of the legendary wealth that has been amassed in the bank accounts of a few; they want jobs, proper health and a fair educational system.

In their slogans, they chant for the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a fair and just democratic system.

They will not return to their homes until they get what they want. They will fight to the end because they have nothing to lose.