By Ahmad Rafat
The nationwide protests sparked by the September death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini while in the custody of the morality police in Tehran have now subsided.
Yet there is ample evidence that the unrest, which quickly gained international support and morphed into a “national revolution,” continues to pose a severe threat to the Islamic Republic regime.
No revolution, not even the indomitable “women, life, freedom” movement that swept across Iran recently, can swiftly overthrow a despotic regime such as the Islamic Republic – a regime with a massive military arsenal that has systematically oppressed its citizens for 43 years.
A revolution is not a 100-meter dash: It’s a marathon that requires patience, strategy, and tactical planning to be completed.
A peaceful revolution, such as the one in Iran, is not a military coup that could change a government by occupying a few key institutions and killing the leaders of the ruling regime.
Although the protests have been less intense in recent weeks, as compared to a few months ago, the people of Iran are still using any opportunity to march in groups – including as mourners gathering on the grave sites of the 500 people who have died in the recent revolutionary movement, or during the Nowruz – Iranian New Year – period, starting on March 21.
Workers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and pensioners in various Iranian cities have gone on strike recently.
These protests and strikes are part of the ongoing civil unrest and peaceful revolution which started in September.
As some have suggested, the current movement is like a train that will only stop once it reaches its destination.
Civil disobedience is a vital component of the revolution occurring in Iran.
Girls and women have spearheaded the fight against the mandatory hijab across Iran. The regime’s failure to reimpose the compulsory hijab has prompted it to resort to extreme measures to reassert its authority, sparking more protests.
The closure of 2,000 restaurants, cafeterias, stores, and a shopping center for serving customers who wore inappropriate hijabs has outraged the public.
The realization that some protesters do not oppose the hijab but are only against the mandatory hijab has sparked a fierce debate among the Islamic Republic’s various factions.
The Bahar newspaper published an article titled “The Country Is Being Shut Down.”
The Islamic Republic claims that its rule is based on Islamic values. However, it has continually failed to institutionalize these principles in Iranian society in the past 43 years. Iranian society’s rejection of the mandatory hijab is an example of the regime’s failure to impose its cultural vision on Iranian society.
Despite the government’s massive and widespread propaganda, most Iranians reject many of the regime’s “values.” Some ostensibly comply with these “values,” but do not believe in them.
For instance, despite the government’s campaign promoting marriage and large families, young people do not get married, and couples do not have many children. According to government data, the number of unmarried couples living together (referred to as white marriages) is increasing in Iran.
The regime has also been unable to suppress the love of music which state media describes as “Western” and “un-Islamic.”
Authorities have tried to remove satellite dishes and antennas a few years ago to block foreign TV broadcasts. However, they have met with strong resistance, and have been forced to leave satellite dishes and antennas on the rooftops of houses and buildings.
The regime deems women’s active presence and participation in the workplace and society as being against Islamic values. Yet that notion is challenged even in religious households.
Several senior clerics in religious institutions and seminaries in the holy cities of Qom and Mashhad have remained silent about the authorities’ battle with people who do not observe the strict hijab dress code.
Despite their commitment to the “hijab law,” these clerics argue it should not be used as an excuse to crack down on those who oppose the mandatory hijab.
They believe that the policies of Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi have damaged religion and will ultimately alienate people from Islam.
Some prominent Koran reciters close to Ali Khamenei, including Mahmoud Karimi, have criticized efforts to enforce the mandatory hijab. Karimi has allowed women who do not adhere to strict hijab dress codes or even wear who no hijab to attend his recitations.
In an unprecedented move, Mowlavi Abdelhamid, leader of the Iranian Sunni community, who in recent months has become a staunch critic of the Islamic Republic and its policies, allowed women wearing no hijab to enter the Grand Makki Mosque in Zahedan, the capital of the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan. The Grand Makki Mosque is the most important Sunni Mosque in Iran.
Some supporters of Ali Khamenei do not believe that foreign governments’ adversarial policies towards the Islamic Republic have caused the Iranian people to turn away from religion.
They argue that the Islamic Republic’s failed economic plans, hyperinflation, widespread corruption, and social policies, including the mandatory hijab, are the main reasons that people turn away from religion and against the Islamic Republic.
Meanwhile, the infighting within the regime is intensifying.
The latest meeting between Khamenei and a group of Basij students, loyal supporters of the current government, ended with a massive protest by the students.
After remaining silent for a long time, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who was in office from 2005 to 2013) recently posted a video clip on social media, comparing Ali Khamenei to Satan, and likening those who feared people’s opinions, rule and vote to the devil.
In a letter, the contents of which are unknown, 30 people who allegedly have control over the country’s economy and are close to the inner circle of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have urged Khamenei to resign and put the country in the hands of those who can put out the flames of the “Women, Life, Freedom” revolution by fulfilling some of the people’s demands.
This group has reportedly played a crucial role in bypassing international sanctions, and that has given them enough clout to send the letter.
None of the 30 signatories of the letter has been arrested so far. According to some sources within the regime, the group manages dozens of state and semi-private holdings.
Members of this group and other regime insiders have concluded that the current oppressive ruling system is losing its effectiveness daily, and it cannot rely on its police, security, Basij, and the IRGC forces to silence people.
Opposition groups, their leaders, and various prominent political figures abroad also play a critical role in the current atmosphere.
Despite their ideological and political differences — which the Islamic Republic tries to exploit for its own benefit — these diplomats and opposition figures perform vital services, which could visibly increase international support for the “women, life, freedom” movement.
No democratic revolution has ever been victorious over a dictatorship without the international community’s support.
Diplomacy has a more defining role now than at any time before, given the crucial role traditional and social media play worldwide.
However, only people can change a political system and establish democracy.