The scene we will narrate is a little story from last month’s Iranian social encounters. Since the #IranProtests of early January we have heard many stories with similar dialogues and reactions.
At the check-in area of an Iranian airport, a mother and her two young children waited to board their domestic flight for hours on end. Infuriated, the woman glared at the huge and omnipresent portraits of Khomeini and Khamenei and made her thoughts clear in a loud, intelligible voice: Their family jewels should be fed to the bitches and their remains dumped in dog’s shit. These two pimps have only brought miseries and shame to us all!
A man tried to calm her down, and in a paternalistic tone said: Madam, it is not good to use such words. Things will change. Please calm yourself down. Your words can be dangerous.
Another man cut him off with a tirade of vitriol against him: What? This is how you support this lady? Did you back those brave women who took their hijabs off? Did you protest when they were arrested, or call them whores? Did you, anytime in your miserable life, stand by your mother, wife or daughter when they were facing the brutalities of the bassijis? Do you have the balls for asking why it is more than ten hours that we are waiting for a bloody flight in these shitty conditions?
The first man said no more and made himself small in a corner. No one called in the bassijis to arrest the woman for blasphemy.
Some turned their heads as if they had not heard a thing, others approved the woman and the second man by nodding slightly.
A scene beyond imagination only a few months ago.
From Apathy To Carelessness
Moods are changing in Iran. No one can write the next scene. The strong language invigorates the citizen by letting out the inner pressure.
Unsophisticated, they act like angry teenagers … for now.
For all one knows, the Iranian women have made their voices heard and remained the front runners in the drive for essential changes. However, major obstacles hinder the process.
Not all women push the cart of transformation in the same direction. Some of the women who took their hijabs off in public places were beaten ruthlessly by the she-bassijis and were mocked by she-passers-by.
Moreover, a couple of weeks ago, the chairwoman of the Women’s Social and Cultural Council, Ms Zahra Ayatollahi, commenting on a draft bill on “Protecting Women Against Violence”, warned that the overprotecting of women would undermine the headship of men and would encourage women to be petulant and playful.
The phallocentric mentality prevails in Iranian society.
Would the men stand with women and toil with them in unison for fast track changes? Or would they watch passively from the pavement, boo or cheer when they deem suitable, as they did in the past?
Till now, men have deprived women the freedom of action, and have perverted the course of social transformation. This has mostly benefited the regime, nipping in the bud collective voices and responsibilities, with divisions being not only on a gender level but also on a social level.
Can the gender divide be turned into a united, positive force? Further, can the entrenched social divides be bridged by collective responsibilities?
A Worrying Awakening
All over the country, workers organise local strikes; professional bodies, nurses and teachers, for example, are out in the streets claiming their rights: their salaries have been unpaid for months. They want measures to fight inflation and to stop the meltdown of purchasing power.
If these protests are specific to urban areas, the rural population, historically undemanding, are also making themselves heard. The farmers need water for cultivation, but it is drying out and what is left is diverted to the overpopulated urban areas.
More and more people are experiencing income inequality and poverty, and a growing number, especially among the youngest generation, face a life with no prospects. Slowly, under economic pressure and in poverty, the Iranian citizen has no choice but to wake up and combat forty years of internalised fear and apathy. However, collective responsibility cannot be learned overnight and voices are discordant. Besides, none of the economic, environmental or societal problems has a simple solution. In typical Iranian style, mismanagement has turned the problem to disaster.
As yet, the women’s civil resistance, the workers’ protests, and the farmers’ demands have not led to the joining of forces. The citizens are politically too immature to speak up in unity and there is no vision to bring them together.
This makes the social awakening worrying since what the protesters are facing is not an opponent ready for constructive dialogue. It is a powerful and experienced system that awaits them; a bicephalous octopus with tentacles ready to suck out the lifeblood of the country.
The Bicephalous Octopus
The institutionalised Shiite hierarchy and the IRGC form a scary bicephalous octopus. The tentacles act in unison and have reached into every nook and cranny of people’s lives.
On the civilian side, only the clerics that have attended religious seminars decide on the national policies and even head complex technical offices. The key decisions are theirs to make.
All men in lower positions, including the president, his ministers, and the deputies to the parliament, are their flunkies. They have been vetted by the regime for their loyalty and trained to play the cameo roles.
The oil revenues were not enough to cover the expenses of the armed forces, including the development of the nuclear and missile programmes. So the regime has handed over the economic and financial sectors, both public and private, to the IRGC, thus creating a monopoly.
From the national security issues to the control of exchange rates and whatever in between that impacts citizens’ daily life, even sports, for each official declaration from an ayatollah or a minister there is another one from a high-ranking IRGC.
The leader is seen in the company of the military far too often.
What has always mattered to the theocracy has been to expand the Islamic Revolution and the clerics’ influence in the Middle East, where the Leadership and the IRGC play the big game of geostrategy.
Is this to warrant the country’s stability and safety in a war-hit Middle East or to warn the Iranian people of a ruthless reaction to their protests and demands?
Satisfying the justified demands of the protesters would reduce the power of clerics in many key domains, and smash the economic/financial monopoly of the IRGC.
To save the depleted country, the decision-making positions should be opened up to competent Iranian professionals, regardless of their sex, religion and ethnicity.
It means killing the bicephalous octopus. It means dumping the Velayat-e Faqih and writing a new constitution.
Are we, as a nation, ready for it?
This is a non-exhaustive list of terror acts since 1979.
In 2018, even if some of them have undergone cosmetic changes, they remain handy to use when necessary:
- encouraging denunciations of associates, friends and family
- unparalleled spoliation of the properties of individuals taxed with the allegation of Mofsed-e-felarz (spreading corruption on Earth)
- ruthless hezbollahi (later transmuting into the bassijis) patrols enforcing the Islamic values on women
- repression of, belittlement, and smear campaign against religious and ethnic minorities, barring them from public services, university enrolment, etc.
- speedy revolutionary tribunals in which the verdicts were set before the trials has taken place
- dissemination of the pictures of the corps fallen under firing squads in prison yards or hanged in public
- flogging, stoning and lex talionis were additional regressive methods of punishment to be reintroduced in penal code and applied
- the hatred of the enemies, and their creepy spies, real or imaginary, was erected as a new pillar of the Shiite officialdom.