The Iranian regime is castled before the crack opened by the protests | International
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The protests in Iran, triggered by the death in police custody of the young Mahsa Amini on September 16, did not take two weeks to deplore their black Friday: the September 30 massacre in Zahedan, in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, in the southeast of the country, in which the security forces killed 66 people, according to Amnesty International ―35, according to official figures―. That day, the police opened fire on a crowd, in an incident that the authorities describe as an armed assault on a police station, number 16. Amnesty’s version is that this massacre was due to the order transmitted days before to the security forces. by the General Headquarters of the Iranian Armed Forces to repress “severely rioters and anti-revolutionaries”. Almost a month later, Tehran announced this Friday the dismissal for “bad practices” of the Zahedan police chief and the head of the 16th police station, the official IRNA agency reported.
These dismissals could be a first concession to the protesters by leaders “whose mentality has been that giving in to public demands is a slippery slope that can lead to greater demands and, ultimately, to their downfall,” he stressed. Sina Toosi, an analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington (CIP), in a document published in the World Politics Review on September 26, when the top Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had downplayed the importance of the protests: “There are few,” settled. Other personalities related to the regime tried to discredit the demonstrators by assimilating the opposition to the compulsory veil with debauchery and sexual promiscuity.
Those words now sound far away. In the face of the demonstrations unleashed by the suspicious death of Amini, 22, three days after being arrested in Tehran for wearing the veil incorrectly, “it is clear that the regime is concerned,” says lawyer Mani by email from the United States. Mostofi, an Iran expert at the US human rights consultancy Miaan Group.
“What makes these protests historically significant is the broad base of support they have across region, class, ideology, gender and ethnicity. We see protests in all provinces, from small towns to big cities, and from Kurdish to Baluch and Persian regions. Different social movements have participated in Iran: women’s, student and worker. In this sense, the State faces a level of opposition that is new and formidable”, analyzes the specialist.
The big question is “if we are facing a sustained movement towards democracy,” says Mostofi. “The Islamic Republic is trying to prevent popular anger from turning into an organized effort to change the system. Not only have they suppressed the protests through arrests and violence [al menos 253 personas han muerto en la represión, según Iran Human Rights]Instead, they have arrested activists and civic leaders who have not participated. No one thought this would last more than six weeks. It has lasted so long because the movement has massive support and a certain clarity of purpose. So if local leaders, organizations and resources can be found, it will go further.”
That is, according to Mostofi, the fear of the Iranian authorities; that these protests that the regime predicted ephemeral grow and end up precipitating its fall. For some voices in the diaspora, such as the Iranian journalist and activist exiled in the United States Masih Alinejad, Iran is already experiencing at least “a feminist revolution”. In the opinion of experts such as the Iranian historian Ervand Abrahamian, also in exile, the numbers of the protests do not justify that statement. In a country of 85 million inhabitants, figures such as the more than 10,000 protesters who, according to official media, attended Amini’s tomb on Wednesday, do not seem to Abrahamian a sufficient critical mass to topple a regime.
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In an interview on the BBC’s Farsi-language service, this historian recently stated that a revolution “requires the presence of millions [de manifestantes], not of scattered protests, as well as strikes of the petty bourgeoisie and industry. To overthrow a system, you don’t need a leader, but afterwards, you do. The transformation of the protest into a revolution will depend on the level of stupidity of the leaders of the Islamic Republic in the next one or two years.”
Iranologist Raffaele Mauriello, a professor at Allameh Tabataba’i University, maintains by telephone from Tehran: “To speak of revolution in Iran right now is a fantasy.” He characterizes the demonstrations as “a movement of civil disobedience that, to this day, does not threaten the power of the state.”
the weight of fear
A March this year survey by the Netherlands-based Iran Attitude Measurement and Analysis Group of nearly 17,000 Iranians points to greater discontent than the protester numbers reflect. According to the extrapolation of the data from this study, 88% of the Iranian population defined democracy as a “fair or very good” system. 67% of those surveyed considered that “a system governed by religious law” is “quite or very bad” and only 28% described it as “good”.
The recurrence of demonstrations in Iran in recent years also points to a growing gap between the Iranian state and part of the country’s population, a trend that the repression of these protests is deepening, the experts cited agree. For the political scientist Ali Alfoneh, “the three pillars” of the credibility of the Iranian political system “are weakened”. These pillars are “the role of the head of state as an intermediary between man and God; the elections, which although manipulated, guarantee a certain degree of popular representation; and economic prosperity and security.” In Iran, “few Iranians now regard Ayatollah Khamenei as an intermediary between man and God; excessive electoral manipulation has significantly reduced electoral participation and the president [Ebrahim] Raisi, at best, received 30% of the votes. The population also suffers from economic difficulties,” says this expert, who believes that the most likely future scenario is that Iran evolves into a covert military dictatorship of the Revolutionary Guards, the branch of the Armed Forces created to protect the theocratic system.
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