Enemies of the Nation

The sixth day of #IranProtests comes to complete a round where all the players have had their moves. People, Parliament, Hassan Rouhani’s government, the Judiciary, some political activists, some foreign leaders and finally The Supreme Leader.

  • Not surprisingly, the Supreme Leader, addressing a limited audience of martyrs’ families, laid the blame on the enemies of the nation and promised he would soon talk to the people about it and delve into the issue. To some extent, he didn’t repeat his 2009 mistake and he didn’t take the risk of being defied.
  • Emmanuel Macron called for Hassan Rouhani to behave more prudently with the protestors and listen to them. The European Union finally released a very short statement, asserting their contacts with the Iranian officials and their attentiveness to the situation and calling all parties involved to a refrain from violence.
  • Nikki Haley spoke to the reporters in the United Nations, stating that the US will be requesting an urgent UNSC summit both in New York and Geneva and read aloud some of people’s chants, probably missing one of the most crucial ones: Bread, Job, Liberty.
  • Former President, Mohammad Khatami, who’s known for keeping a low profile unless there be an electoral campaign, had a meeting with some reformist clerics and the statement which was eventually released, very close to that of the Supreme Leader, unequivocally condemned the enemies of the nation who try to destabilize the country and its flourishing. This statement was not the only one to keep such a tone among those of the reformists. Such an attitude came to cause a visible grievance among a part of middle and lower classes who previously sought deliverance, even a bit of it, in reformists.
  • Amoli Larijani, head of the judiciary, belligerently called for the crack-down of the saboteurs.

The fifth day showed some very tough encounters between security forces and popular demonstrators. Some harsh footage from some small cities in the central part of the country which were sometimes unknown to lots of social media users, number of people killed during the protests exceeding 20 and nearly 1000 people arrested in different cities are what was not expected to happen in such a short period. The high number of casualties may actually draw some people back; that could be why the sixth day witnessed little turmoil as the security forces started to raise their cover on key points of the cities.

A rally has been called for this Friday by the Supreme Leader to celebrate and pay tribute to the popular solidarity and to demonstrate the national unity. It’s still unclear if the protestors are going to get back to the streets on Friday and turn the streets, which henceforth are going to be covered heavily for some time, into a showdown. There are however some issues to consider:

  1. The global society will probably not take any strong measure against the ongoing events and the way the regime is coping with it. Precisely, if we are waiting for sanctions or cut of ties with Iran over this it shows a big deal of naïvité. (There could eventually be certain countries who might reduce or completely cut off their ties with Iran but not a global consensus about this.)  This comes to be another proof that this matter has to be settled internally.
  2. Are these protests going to lead to the fall of the Islamic Republic and place a new regime in Tehran? At the end of the sixth day, that’s not what I believe will happen. So supposing that, how is the society going to heal these deep wounds? We have had teenagers killed during these protests and we need to think about how to walk back to a pseudonormal state of life.
  3. Although stated previously that the demonstrations are not going to change the regime, they have already changed the political scene to an unprecedented extent: The conservatives have, for some time now, had an essential conflict of values with the middle class and a big part of lower-classes; that’s to say, the middle class and the lower classes do not come to terms with what the conservatives stand for such as implementation of Islamic rule in politics or visible religious propaganda in the streets where they are walking. Iran is an enormous country with a huge diversity so we cannot totally rule out the religiousness among the people but it could be noted that a big part of the middle and lower classes are better-off practicing the religious deeds on their own in comparison to state-organized rituals; the uprisings these days and the recent dissatisfaction with the government expenditure are clear hints that people prefer the money to be spent on their well-being rather than an organized religion. The Reformers can now be said to have lost a huge credit. What we now know as IranProtests on Twitter and other social networks  proves clearly that the days of middle and lower classes providing the reformists a blank check are over. What the reformists economic and cultural theorists have done so far, by showing free-market as a terrestrial paradise, after IranProtests is now a clear failure. Moreover, their effort to reform the political structure of Iran is now proved to be in vain- if not a delusion from the very beginning. It was often believed that, at least since 1997, Iran’s political scene has been a bipartisan one; when President Khatami came to power. The two parties, since IranProtests broke out, have come to converge in an unconventional manner. They have overtly taken sides and despite blaming each other for the problems that have led to such protests, they retain that they will not allow, at any costs, certain changes to happen. These changes, to mention only a few, include abolition of theocracy, abrogating or even limiting the authority of the Supreme Leader, establishment of civil freedoms specially for women, developing economic transparency or limiting the budgets and influences of certain institutions. That said: reformists are going to have an incredibly difficult job to gain a popular support for the 2019 Parliamentary Elections which could eventually lead to a victory of the conservatives, given the high number of trained members they have in IRGC, Public Services, militias etc. The difference of such a victory with, for instance, that of Rouhani is going to be the voters’ turn-out which will probably be visibly lower. Over the past few days, some intellectuals have called for a Third Estate (The term that I dare borrow from the French Revolution.) The emergence of such a Third Estate, in the days to come, is going to be as likely as a vegan restaurant in the cannibals’ island! A fleeting glimpse to what happened after the protests in 2009-2010 and the remarkable influence in the social and political surveillance can make us understand that a Third Estate like that cannot emerge unless through underground organization and a revolutionary break-out – rather than  electoral politics.

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