With mainstream media coverage so scarce when it comes to world news in general, social media has done an enormous job of allowing those of us interested to follow events as they unfold.
I watch all the footage that appears on my Twitter feed, but nothing is quite as powerful to me as the occasional video or photo of a soldier or member of the police joining the protests. It is mandatory in Iran for every male to serve in their military. One reason might be military readiness, but also of course, to firmly indoctrinate young men to strengthen the grip of the regime on the people.
It is no small matter for soldiers or members of the IRGC / Basij to abandon their position, renounce their organizations and join the people in protest. Yet, many have. Images of IRGC cards being burnt have been swirling around social media for weeks, many with messages very similar to those the protesters have been chanting in the streets and spray-painting upon walls.
The message on the left reads: “People of Iran, know the IRGC Commandos are with you. Rise, my fellow countrymen. Death to Khemeini.”
The message in the image to the right says: “My Basij brother, what have you received from the Basij? Don’t be cruel to the people & don’t be this regime’s ladder. Know that they will use you & then get rid of you.”
Anyone daring to abandon and renounce their position in Iran’s regime forces risks not only his own life and freedom, but that of his family as well. The regime has no problem targeting the loved ones of anyone they view as a traitor, or guilty of attempting to overthrow them, or simply undermine their authority.
As I blog, an innocent couple who own an art gallery in Iran have been sentenced to long stretches in prison for allegedly ‘plotting to overthrow’ the government, and a period of years was added for the ghastly crime of “drinking wine.”
In addition to this, three people were recently hanged for crimes they were accused of committing while still minors. One of them was a woman who had allegedly stabbed to death the man who bought her as a ‘bride’ when she was only thirteen years old.
This is the wrath you face when you dare to rise up, to speak up, or do anything but blindly obey these bearded tyrants.
That members of their own forces are doing so in small droves now is a huge, glaring sign that this vile regime is finally starting to crumble. Something has made them dare. Something has inspired them to risk their lives and the safety of everyone they love. That ‘something’ is not any one single thing. These things never are. While we may focus on the brave women waving their hijabs defiantly in the air (and being arrested in big numbers for doing so), there is a lot more behind this than that.
The economy: Sanctions actually do have an effect, and when your government would rather spend billions of dollars to fight proxy wars, fund terrorism and line their pockets than to fund the country, it has an effect. Workers across all industries in Iran are on strike and protesting. Many workers, including teachers have not been paid in over a year. People are yanking their money from regime banks and investors are loudly demanding refunds.
There are more homeless than ever before, including victims of a recent earthquake, resulting in many people quietly freezing to death for lack of simple trailer shelters the government failed to deliver.
(At least one young, and very unfortunate man advertised his kidney for sale in order to pay the bills. This is legal in Iran, ironically enough. Women may not decide what to wear or not wear on their heads, but they can sell their internal organs.)
You probably won’t see that on the evening news, but you’ll find disturbing photos and videos all over social media that show the absolute chaos Iran is in economically.
The corruption: People are finally frustrated enough with their own communities suffering while the Mullahs are rich and billions are sent out of the country. When elderly people are eating from trash bins and young engineering graduates cannot find work, people will have had enough of your nonsense.
The oppression: Finally, the word is used correctly by someone in the West! Yes, Iran’s regime is oppressive, and to more than only the women. Sharia law rules the land, which means a great number of restrictions and cruel punishments for anyone to break those laws. It is of course Islamic law, with no care given to any person’s religion. They apply the same to the Christian and Jewish people of Iran as they do to Muslims.
- The forced hijab and modesty laws in general. This one gets the most press.
- Alcohol is strictly forbidden
- Public displays of affection between men and women are forbidden
- Western music and most dancing is strictly prohibited.
- No person is permitted to be openly gay, and men may not dress in female clothing.
- Criticizing the government either in public speech or via written words is a high crime.
- Relationships between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are banned.
- Adultery is illegal, and may be punishable by death in some cases.
- Magazines or DVDs depicting any “indecent” content are banned.
- Using a laptop in public might get you arrested on suspicion of ‘espionage’.
- Drugs are strictly illegal and violators often face execution for drug crimes.
- There IS an actual “Morality Police” who go around monitoring people in public.
That’s just a short list, and only a glimpse into the smothering authoritarian fist the people are living under. Prior to 1979, most of this was not in effect, and the economy was also a lot better. When the revolution took place with all its violence and bloodshed, the country was also thrown backward by a few thousand years. Archaic punishments such as public floggings have been an everyday event since then.
This man was flogged simply for participating in the protests. He assaulted no one. He killed no one. He damaged no property. His crime was simply to stand in the street among others, and raise his voice.
If you were to stop a hundred different people in various cities across Iran to ask them why the people are angry and protesting, and why they want a regime change, the answers would differ slightly.
The bottom line is simply that people can literally no longer afford to live under this corruption and abuse. Those old enough to remember what Iran used to be want it back, and those too young to remember have been told all about it by their parents and grandparents, and long to see it in their lifetime.
Not to fill a blog post with YouTube videos, but this song beautifully sums up the reasons for the protests while also containing some pretty powerful moments in the protests. Also, I am not a professional writer, so you can’t hold the standard too high.