After nearly six months the uprising in Iran—known as Zhina’s uprising after the nickname of Mahsa Amini whose death in police custody triggered the revolt—has begun to die down. For how long we can’t tell. This revolt has lasted much longer and been more far-reaching than the upheavals against the regime in December 2017 and October 2019.
Significant protests are still taking place in Kurdistan and Baluchistan, the two areas where oppressed minorities also suffered the most savage repression. International Women’s Day this year also saw defiant women wearing their hair out on the streets of Tehran.
In 2017, people rose up around economic demands, abandoning their hopes in the reformist faction inside the regime. Their main slogan was: “Reformists, hardliners, this is the end.” Two years later there was another uprising around the cost of living that brought even more people to the streets.
After nearly three years of COVID-19, the latest revolt beginning last September was dominated by working class people and those thrown into poverty demanding the complete fall of the regime. Significantly the protests saw mass defiance of women against the enforced wearing of the hijab. The brutal crackdown from the regime has seen more than 500 protesters killed including 70 children, and about 22,000 arrested. Nearly 600 protesters have lost an eye as a result of police firing rubber bullets.
This year is also 44 years since the February 1979 Iranian revolution. That revolution toppled the dictatorial Shah. The popular revolution was stolen by Ayatollah Khomeini and Islamic clerics before it was finished.
Muslim clerics had been allowed to continue working under the “traitorous Shah” while the real revolutionary fighters were killed or wasted their lives in prison. Before the 1979 revolution there were 24,000 clerics and tens of thousands of their religious followers able to teach and advocate Islamic ideas freely in about 55,000 mosques.
Since the revolution, people have risen up many times. The Islamic regime, like the Shah’s dictatorship, has for many years suppressed protests and executed and imprisoned thousands of courageous young activists. Time and time again people have bravely stood up and faced defeat only to fight back again.
Particularly in recent months, in addition to the bravery and strength of people resisting inside the country, Iranians abroad have also shown their solidarity and support. We should remember that revolution has many twists and turns and we are just in the early stages of this new wave of revolt.
A number of the exiled figures outside Iran are happy to work with the world powers to try to capture and derail the revolution. They include some who have tried to come to terms with the regime in the past, and nationalists who want some sort of Western republic but are scared to death of any form of free education or healthcare, which they see as “socialism”.
We also have the People’s Mujaheddin organisation who have tried to get support from the worst elements of the imperialist powers to topple the regime. Finally there are also supporters of the monarchy who want them back in power.
None of them have ever believed in popular revolution from below or put any trust in the masses on the streets. The monarchists prefer to talk of “regime change”, a “transition period”, “non-violent path” or any other nonsense instead of calling for revolution! For many years, they have called for military intervention by the major powers and further economic sanctions against the Islamic Regime.
These people abroad who live in a relatively safe and secure environment never think about the horrific consequences of this on ordinary Iranians. They seek to work with various ruling classes and are scared of workers and ordinary people in Iran determining their own fate.
They do not want popular revolution. They seek to conspire with the world powers to divert the revolution. They sometimes form colourful parties—each time with a different colour—with few members and a short life, through the tactic of a coalition of individuals and not political parties, sometimes by “giving power of attorney” to the former prince, as in the era of lords and serfs, and sometimes among the community of so-called celebrities.
One of their tactics is to call for sanctions against part of the regime without wanting to completely overthrow it. Recently, they have asked the European and American governments to call the IRGC terrorists, as if only this part of the government apparatus is violent and repressive. But the entire regime with all its military, security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies are against the interests of the Iranian people.
Western governments are not reliable allies. They have all failed to deliver the funding for health and hospitals needed during the pandemic and ignore the wishes of their own people. It is ordinary people fighting for freedom, equality, and democracy against dictatorship and oppression all around the world who are the hope for change.
The new generation inside Iran are finding their way by trial and error. Recently for the anniversary of 1979 Iranian revolution, 20 groups and unions (which are all underground) published a joint statement of 12 minimum demands (it can be found here).
This statement once again shows the leading role of the working class in the movement. Winning agreement from all these groups is an important achievement given the conditions of severe repression and distrust amongst the left inside Iran.
Some have criticised this statement as not going far enough, but it is an important first step of its kind. Its demands include: “Complete equality of the rights of women and men in all political, economic, social, cultural and familial arenas. The unconditional repeal of all discriminatory laws against sexual and gender identities and orientations. The recognition of the rainbow LGBTQ+ community. Decriminalizing all gender identities and orientations. Unconditional adherence to women’s rights to control their own bodies and futures and preventing enforced patriarchal control.”
After the new year (in the Iranian calendar 21 March), warming weather and the end of school and university may see young people come back to the streets and reignite the movement.
The people of Iran will win power in revolution by themselves through their own actions. No foreign power can bring democracy to the people of Iran.
The entire regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran is rotten and ruined. It has murdered thousands of young Iranians and must be overthrown. This can only be done by the people inside the country and by their own will, leadership and organisation.
By Rouzbeh Abadan