During the last three days I have received countless emails and messages from American non-Iranian friends who are interested in learning about the recent unrest and protestors in Iran. In an effort to educate average Americans who may be rusty on Iran affairs and seek the truth surrounding the protests, I offer the following 10 quick questions and answers. These are my personal views, based on my own knowledge of these events transpiring in Iran and my own journalistic experience in covering the Iranian regime since 2000. Other Iran experts may disagree with assessments below and I respect their views and perspectives as well…
Who are the protestors in Iran and what do they want?
The protestors are the average citizens of Iran, young and old who are utterly fed up with their lack of jobs, high cost of food, lack of personal freedoms, rampant corruption of the Iranian regime’s ayatollahs and their cohorts. They are very angry that the regime has spent billions on funding foreign wars and terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen instead of improving their lives at home. They are protesting to have regime change in Iran because life has become totally unbearable in their own country and the ruling clerics have done nothing to help improve their lives. These protestors want a free and democratic society instead of being ruled by the theocratic dictatorship of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They are tearing down posters of him and chanting for his death and the death of other clerics that have been ruling Iran with an iron fist for 39 years. The protestors also want better economic opportunities and a free market economy in Iran where they can feed their families and enjoy a high quality of life. They want a new free government that is accountable to them and offering them something better than the misery they have had endure for nearly four decades under the Islamic regime in Iran.
Who is organizing these opposition protests?
There is no single Iranian opposition group or groups that are specifically organizing these protests. These protests are 100% organic, grassroots, spontaneous and from average people in Iran fed up with their current poor living situation and coming out to voice their grievances against the regime. Different Iranian opposition groups living outside of Iran have recently taken credit for these protests within Iran, but in reality they have and had nothing to do with these protestors.
Can the protestors really have success in ultimately bringing down the current regime in Iran?
No one can say for sure right now because the protests are still in their early stages. However if the momentum continues on the streets in Iran with more people partaking in civil disobedience and bringing the country to a halt, things may start moving against the current ayatollah regime in Iran. Yet it is also important to mention that the people of Iran need the support of the American public, American elected officials as well as from other western democratic governments to pressure the Iranian regime and for them to gain more momentum in their efforts to unseat the ayatollahs in power in Iran.
How widespread are the protests in Iran against the regime during the last three days?
Thousands of people in dozens of Iranian cities have come out day and night to largely peacefully protest the regime. Some regime police motorcycles and vans have been set ablaze by the protestors and protestors have burned or torn down posters of the supreme leader in several cities.
What has the regime done to crack down on the protests?
In Tehran and other cities, the regime has sent in their armed thugs or police to beat, shoot and arrest hundreds of protestors. The regime has also used tear gas and water cannons against protestors in the streets to break up the protests. There are reports from people in Iran that the regime has slowed down or stopped internet access in many cities to prevent people from organizing protest, meeting to protest as well as to stop video footage being sent out of the country showing the widespread protests. Likewise many protestors have received threatening text messages on their phones from the regime warning them not to join the protests or face dire consequences.
Will the ayatollahs give up power easily to the people if the protests and civil disobedience continue?
Most likely not. Based on my own knowledge of how this regime has operated for 39 years, the ayatollahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in power in Iran will not give up control of the country without a lot of bloodshed and without a fight. This regime in Iran and their cohorts have killed hundreds of thousands of voices of opposition to their reign of terror in the country and those voices of opposition outside the country without any hesitation. If one looks at the Islamic clerics’ long history in Iran, they have been yearning and fighting for power and wealth in the country for nearly four centuries in Iran. Then after gaining this power and wealth since 1979, they will not allow anything or anyone to stop them from sucking the national wealth of the nation like parasites.
Does President Donald Trump’s messages and other elected officials messages on social media really help the people of Iran?
Yes. The president’s messages on Twitter and those from other U.S. elected officials offer moral support and encouragement to those protestors in Iran to continue with their struggle to overthrown the current regime. Undoubtedly when the greatest democracy and only superpower in the free world is behind them, they feel stronger to move forward with their movement for freedom. In the late 1980s the late President Regan offered words of moral support to the people of Poland and East Germany trying to overthrow the oppressive communist dictatorships ruling them. His words helped the European protestors and they were ultimately successful in riding themselves of their communist rulers. This is also true today with President Trump speaking out quickly and vocally in support of protestors seeking democracy in Iran. In 2009 former President Obama was largely silent on speaking out in support of the protestors and not quick to denounce the ayatollahs for cracking down on protestors in Iran. As a result the people of Iran lost hope to continue their efforts and their protests were brutally crushed by the ayatollahs in Iran. To the Iranian protestor’s disappointment, they chanted in the streets; “Obama you are either with them or with us”. Ultimately with Obama remaining silent to their calls for support, they were crushed by the regime.
How are these protests today in Iran different from the 2009 election protests?
The protests in 2009 in Iran were primarily in response to the fraudulent outcome of the elections in that country. Those protests were organized by the “Green Movement” or Iranian government “reform” leaders that were seeking to “fix” Iran and to supposedly allow people certain freedoms and better economic conditions under the current Islamic regime. Those protests were quickly quashed by the Iranian regime because the Obama administration did not stand with the people of Iran but instead wanted to curry favor with the Iranian ayatollahs in power in order to “engage them in diplomatic dialogue”. The leaders of the Green Movement were arrested and voices of opposition to the election were beaten, tortured, killed or arrested. The current protests have nothing do with the elections or the Green Movement, they are purely spontaneous protests from average Iranians who are totally fed up with the regime ruling them, hate the ayatollahs’ corruption and want complete regime change in Iran. Likewise it seems as if the current Trump administration is backing the current Iranian protestors.
Why haven’t the mainstream U.S. and European news media not given extensive coverage to these protests?
I honestly do not know the answer. However as an Iranian American journalist who witnessed the ridiculously positive news media coverage in America and Europe of the Obama 2015 Iran Deal, it was evident that many news media outlets were their blind, naïve or just plain lazy about honestly giving real criticism of the deal’s serious shortcomings. The majority of the news media outlets did not question nor challenge the Obama administration’s unsubstantiated claims that the Iran Deal would “supposedly open up Iran and bring economic relief to its people” or “bring Iran back to the family of normalized nations” or “create more freedom for the people of Iran”. Now for the mainstream news media to honestly cover the protests in Iran today would make the media outlets look like true incompetents since the protest prove that the Iran people’s lives did not get better as a result of the Iran Deal and the deal only enriched the ruling ayatollahs in Iran instead of benefiting Iran’s population.
If there is ultimate regime change in Iran towards a true democracy, will the Iranian society support America and the West?
Yes indeed, if and only if the radical Islamic regime and the military apparatus that is enforcing their rule in Iran is totally dismantled or uprooted in Iran. Close to 70% of Iran’s population is under the age of 35, highly educated, pro-Western and have long voiced support for America and Americans. These young Iranians are social media savvy and have seen the benefits of free societies and democracies for people in America and the West. They no doubt want the same benefits for themselves in Iran. The people of Iran, unlike the clerics who rule Iran, are generally very friendly and hospitable people. They harbor no hatred or ill will towards any group. There is no doubt that after nearly four decades of living in misery, poor economic conditions and lack of freedoms, this new generation of people in Iran is hungry for real democracy in their country.