Iran in Turmoil

In the past few days the protests, the rallies and the street marches of the Iranian people, the people of the lower depths, have been gradually speeding up. In a very short time protests from the major city of Mashad in north-east, spread to all major and big cities in Iran—almost 40 cities called for protest. There have been spontaneous protests, workers’ strikes, almost everyday in last few years in Iran. But none of them could connect to each other to make general and massive popular uprising. And all of them were brutally crushed. The last uprising in 2009 was mostly controlled by the middle class and the urban youth. But what is happening in Iran at the moment does not have any organisation and leadership. Without a leadership how long this spontaneity can survive in the face of security crackdown is open to question.

But US President Donald Trump looks too optimistic to see ‘‘Time of Change’’ in mass protests across Iran. He has been tweeting in support of the protesters for some time while describing Iran as a failed state despite the ‘terrible deal made with them by the Obama administration’. And there lies the crux of the matter. The US administration is working overtime to resurrect the perennial enemy perception in Iran to the level of making an excuse for intervention, notwithstanding the nuclear deal. The same thing is happening in case of bilateral relations between Cuba and America. For Cubans it is now back to square one as Trump is very much against normalising relations with Cuba. Trump’s concern about the plight of Iranian people borders on hypocrisy. ‘‘The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years’’, he wrote. ‘‘They are hungry for food and for freedom. Along with human rights the wealth of Iran is being looted’’. No, it is not that easy to effect a regime change in Iran despite the massive unrest across Iran. No doubt wages in Iran today are at a historic low and essential commodities of living have become more and more expensive. Almost one third of Iranians live under the poverty line. Living expenses are nearly 50 percent more than average wages. People have massive debts to banks and the majority of the working class, cannot see any better future for their families. But without a proper leadership and a definite goal to reach, nothing will change for the better despite sacrifices.

Not surprisingly Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went a step further and called the protesters ‘brave’ and ‘heroic’. Like Trump, he was also disturbed by the absence of basic liberty ‘that has been denied to Iranians for decades’. The worst violators of human rights are crying wolf! Having failed to make Iran ‘behave’ over the years, Washington and Tel Aviv are pinning much hope on spontaneous upsurges to get back what they have lost—the Shah days. At the time of writing the current movement saw at least 21 people killed and 450 protesters arrested by the security forces in the capital city of Teheran. Meanwhile, the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khemenei accused the enemies of Iran of meddling in the internal affairs of Iran, without really specifying the ‘enemies’.

But European countries are not in league with America and Israel in extending support to the rebels. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson just issued a harmless statement saying ‘‘there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this’’. There ended the matter. And Germany was more polite in assessing the Iranian events as their foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel asked all sides to refrain from violent action. Unlike Trump and Netanyahu they are against destabili-sation game in Iran as they too were part of the Obama-initiated 2015 nuclear deal.

Discontent is widespread but it is unlikely to energise another Iranian revolution to end the dictatorial authority of the Ayatollah. The religio-clerical system that now rules Iran can go to any length to suppress even mild voice of dissent. And President Hassan Rouhani didn’t miss the point when he said, ‘‘Iran has seen many similar events and passed them easily’’. The message is clear—a brutal crackdown is in the offing.

Slogans raised by the protesters are not that attractive even by Iranian standards. One of them was ‘‘Reza Shah, bless your soul’’. The Shah, the darling of America, ruled Iran with iron fists from 1925 to 1941 and his Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown in a mass uprising. The brutality of the Shah regime defies description. Whether Iranians would like to go back to that dark age is anybody’s guess despite so much street anger. If anything attempts to rehabilitate the Reza Shah legacy in reality are evidence of a desperate and deep level of anger simmering in the society.

Once upon a time Iran had a strong communist presence through the Iranian communist outfit—Tudeh party. It’s no more, From the day after the great 1979 revolution the regime ruthlessly crushed, imprisoned, killed and exiled the social activists, workers’ organisers, progressive film makers, members of revolutionary parties. In 1981 the Ayatollahs succeeded in achieving dictatorial powers by imposing the years of terror and almost wiping out all Marxist activists. This time almost all left movements in exile and inside Iran, are hoping somewhat against hope to bounce back if the present rebellion persists but spontaneous outburst without any leadership is bound to fizzle out after some time.


Vol. 50, No.29, Jan21 - 27, 2017