Iran has just marked the Persian new year 1402. The previous year proved to be a tumultuous time for the Iranian regime. While 1401 was marked by setbacks for the regime, it was also a year of optimism and transformation for the Iranian people. At the outset of 1401, no one could have anticipated the sweeping social and political changes that would transpire.
In the summer of 2021, Ebrahim Raisi took office as the regime’s president. Despite giving flourishing promises for progress, he has demonstrated little capacity to address the regime’s shortcomings, following in the footsteps of his predecessors. As a result, a fresh wave of repression has taken hold, particularly regarding women and the enforcement of the hijab.
The regime failed to anticipate a society that was on the brink of exploding, fueled by the nationwide protests in 2019-2020 and the people’s determination for radical change. This determination was exacerbated by the regime’s violent response to the peaceful protests in 2019, which claimed the lives of over 1,500 people from all walks of life. The society had resolved to overhaul the country’s dire political, social, and economic circumstances.
The regime’s miscalculation was so severe that it even issued official circulars and announcements promoting its new repressive policy within government departments and offices.
Nearly six months following the inception of this policy, Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman, was tragically killed while in police custody after being arrested by the regime’s so-called morality police. Her death sparked the fuse of a ticking time bomb of social and political unrest.
Despite the regime’s expected brutal response, protests have persisted since then. These demonstrations represent the most severe and widespread dissent the regime has encountered in recent years, with unprecedented participants and sustained momentum.
The breadth, caliber, and volume of protests were so significant that even high school students, both girls, and boys, as well as some elementary schools, joined them.
This expansion greatly complicated matters for the regime’s military, intelligence, and security agencies, who found themselves obliged to confront protesters nationally, across all provinces, cities, and even schools. This was a nightmare scenario for a government that faced widespread opposition from the majority of society.
The opposition the protests, the regime suffered numerous defections among its ranks and supporters, while the opposition movement saw a surge of new supporters committed to overthrowing the regime.
The situation became so dire for the regime that even its own media outlets proposed solutions for its leaders, such as “eschewing violent politics” and “creating avenues for peaceful protest and accepting the demands of the people.”
For example, the “Islamic Republic” newspaper published an article on March 19, 2023, entitled “A Year That Should Not Be Repeated,” which laid out a set of dos and don’ts for the regime’s rulers, using these well-worn cliches to emphasize the importance of change.
This newspaper acknowledges the determination of the Iranian people to bring about change, stating that “the public dissatisfaction with the performance of the government and the officials of the Velayat al-Faqih government, particularly in terms of economic policy, is palpable.”
It goes on to emphasize that “the majority of the Iranian people reject the officials’ performance,” and that “government officials must recognize that, in order to protect the system, they must make changes to their policies.” The events of 2022 demonstrated that there is significant discontent with the regime’s policies and practices.
The widespread protests of 2022, and their continued occurrence in 2023, leave no doubt that this is not merely an economic or livelihood protest. Rather, they reflect the Iranian people’s demand for a democratic government to replace the Velayat al-Faqih regime. This demand is deeply rooted in Iranian society and has emerged from the voices and votes of its people.