The following by Darab Ganji appeared in the Jan. 10, 2018, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Darab Ganji is a political economist and a board member at SMU's John Tower Center for Political Studies.
January 19, 2018
By Darab Ganji
The world is again witnessing the Iranian people expressing their legitimate demands for freedom, human rights and a better life. For the past two weeks, Iranians have been peacefully and courageously defying the brutality of the mullah regime and the Islamic republic system through civil disobedience and protests.
The protests are against Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ali Khamenei, the president, Hassan Rouhani, and the entire Islamic republic system. What started as an anti-Rouhani protest in Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, quickly turned into anti-establishment protest and spread to more than 70 cities. In addition to slogans such as "death to dictator," "leave Syria, think about us," "independence, freedom, Iranian republic" (as opposed to "Islamic" republic), the young protesters also shouted in support of Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925, due to his legacy as a patriotic ruler who brought modernism, secularism, security and territorial integrity for Iran.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the mullah regime is using the Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji security forces and their non-Iranian mercenaries — who are masters of repression and crowd control — to combat the freedom protests. These militia-thugs are committing daily atrocities, including using lethal force, to suppress the Iranian people in an attempt to crush their home-grown freedom movement. The regime has already killed more than 20 and arrested close to 3,000 demonstrators.
To retain power, the ruthless mullahs are quite willing to commit the same types of atrocities they performed assisting Bashar Assad to remain in power thus far in Syria. They will continue to organize their own staged and well-choreographed pro-regime demonstrations, while attempting to crush the Iranian people's pro-freedom protests.
What is fueling the protests today is a combination of economic hardships and inequality, rising living costs, mullah corruption and repression.
The mullah regime came to power in 1979 claiming to champion freedom, independence and self-sufficiency, promising paradise on earth. Today it is one of the most repressive regimes in the world with an economy in shambles. The regime also has broken practically every rule of civilized international conduct and for decades has been the primary instigator of terrorism around the world. Over this period, the ruling mullahs have turned Iran into a fertile breeding ground for militant Islamic fundamentalism and international terrorism. They repeatedly use terror as an instrument of policy, both foreign and domestic.
The mullahs know that the principle threat to their survival is the increasing discontent of the Iranian people, especially the youth. More than half of the Iranian population is under the age of 25. These young people desperately seek freedom, equality, human rights, economic opportunity, modernity and a better life — all of which they know the mullah regime is incapable of delivering. What the regime does not realize yet, however, is that in the long run the freedom movement is irrepressible and the regime is subject to people power.
The protests are part of a movement that will have many phases. At the opportune time, the scale of the protests also will expand to include strikes in the bazaar, petroleum and mass transit sectors, and it will further challenge the theocratic system.
It will greatly benefit the civilized world when the freedom movement ultimately prevails over the ruling mullahs in Iran. But, the success of this movement this time around will also require timely backing from the United States and the international community.
During the past week, we have seen worldwide demonstrations in support of the Iranian people throughout major cities including Dallas. Such global support is critical and timely and the western media has a responsibility to provide sufficient coverage.
The Donald Trump Administration has been correct in differentiating between the Iranian people and the mullah regime and providing timely verbal support for the Iranian people's peaceful protests. Now the administration needs to take action. In addition to the newly imposed sanctions, the U.S. can take the following three steps to have impact:
- Facilitate satellite internet connection for communication purposes and keep social media tools open so that video, photo and audio reports can continue to be shared from Iran.
- Publicly reemphasize that the mullah regime will be held accountable for their use of repression against the Iranian people.
- Release the names of high-ranking regime officials including those of the Revolutionary Guards with their bank account information from around the world to illuminate the corruption of the ruling mullahs.
Today the Persian Gulf region is at a historical juncture, and success for the Iranian people's freedom movement would certainly become a powerful stabilizing force for the world.
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