To fully grasp Iran’s current situation, we need to be reminded of the Islamic revolution of 1979. Many Iranians have compared the 1979 Islamic revolution to the Arab-Muslim conquest of Persia in 651 AD when Arab conquerors forced the Persians to convert to Islam and started to demolish Zoroastrian temples. Those who refused to convert, a special tax was imposed known as jizya (poll tax), and acquired the status of dhimmis.
Ibn Kathir (Commenting on Quran 2:256 in the unabridged version of his tafsir) — “Therefore all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the jizya, they should be fought till they are killed.”
The 1979 Islamic revolution was a plague upon the Iranian people. Most people are under the impression that Iranians voluntarily chose an Islamic government. Nothing could be further from the truth. On March 30, 1979, the new and unstable Islamic leadership conducted a referendum asking all Iranians over the age of 16 a simple yes or no question: should Iran be an Islamic republic? Michael Axworthy states “there may have been some irregularities in the referendum.” According to many people, it was a complete sham. Those who marked “No” faced severe consequences.
To give legitimacy to the illegitimate government, they closely monitored the voting process. For forty years, the Iranian people have tolerated this brutal regime. They gradually developed Stockholm syndrome. If Iran were to hold a referendum on the Islamic Republic today, over 80% would clearly oppose it — the 1979 brief post-revolutionary excitement and sense of freedom quickly gave way to the new rulers’ systemic Islamization of state and society.
Since the beginning of the Islamic revolution, the regime has used coercion, cooptation, and persuasion to try to change the cultural values of the Iranian people. They purged all traces of the Persian monarchy and renamed every street in Iran. They closed universities for three years (1980–1983) and after reopening, banned many books and purged thousands of students and lecturers from the schools. In the end, it failed miserably.
From 1981 until 1985, almost 8,000 people were executed, and similar numbers were killed during the so-called “great massacre” in the final year of the 1980–88 war with Iraq. The Islamic Republic became one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and presently holds the world’s highest execution rate.
Since the 2009 Green Revolution, the situation in Iran has become more tense and unstable. Sporadic protests have intensified. Within 48 hours, protests were occurring at least 80 cities, and the refrains of the demonstrators had catapulted from economic grievances to explicit denunciations of the system and the entirety of its leadership. In fact, it directly aimed at the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who called the crackdown a justified response to a plot by Iran’s enemies at home and abroad and towards Velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the Islamic jurist).
The recent uprising by millions of people throughout Iran is a clear indication that the Islamic theocracy is in irreversible collapse. The overwhelming majority of the people are determined to establish a fully secular democracy with complete separation of mosque and state. Iranians want nothing less than regime change.
Ali Khamenei is in a state of panic. He has ordered his security forces to do whatever it takes to crack down on the protesters. The regime realizes the current protests are much different and much larger than the 2009 Green Movement. The recent protests show the working-class and lower middle-class Iranians in small towns and medium-sized cities across Iran calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. Many have chanted in support of exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi. For many demonstrators, the miserable state of the Iranian economy and corruption provided the perfect vehicle for pent-up expressions of Persian nationalism.
The call of the opposition has been resoundingly answered by President Trump and some of his cabinet members. Iranian leaders are despised by all segments of the Iranian population. It is just a matter of time before the regime falls. The main concern now is how to ensure a smooth transition from a theocracy to a secular democracy and to ensure Iran’s territorial integrity.
In short: the people of Iran wish nothing less than a complete regime change through the democratic process of a free referendum. They believe it is the surest, safest and the fastest way to achieve a democratic Iran and end the world’s nightmare of nuclear holocaust that is currently confronting us all.
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