The West must reform its understanding of governance
March 21, the first day of spring, also marks the beginning of Navruz, or a new year on the Iranian calendar. As the Iranian people begin their year 1402, the promise of change is still in the air, but so is the threat of greater retaliation by Iran’s repressive democracy. It remains to be seen which of those two trends will come out on top, and whether the country will finally realize the promise contained in the holiday’s name, which translates to “new day.”
The answer to this question may depend to a large extent on the actions taken by the Western powers in the coming days. Appropriate action depends on an accurate understanding of the situation that exists today, and unfortunately both Western lawmakers and the international media have inconsistent track records when it comes to recognizing what the Iranian people and the clerical regime are each capable of. .
There has been a resurgence in popular unrest in recent weeks, as activists marked 40 days since the execution of two protesters, then drew direct public attention to the mass poisonings of schoolgirls across the country.
The latter incident began on November 30, but has since worsened, with dozens of schools in ten provinces apparently being attacked just last Saturday. The incidents are widely believed to be punishment by regime officials, or their supporters, for playing such a prominent role in the protests for women and girls that erupted in September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed by “morality police”. . Wearing her obligatory hijab very loose.
Some Western NGOs, as well as institutions such as the US Commission on Religious Freedom, have agreed that Iranian authorities are at least tolerating the gas attacks, apparently in order to close girls’ schools and discourage campus activism in the future. are intended. But these statements run contrary to prior reporting, which gave the Iranian regime entirely too much credit in terms of its willingness to adopt reforms and compromise with the protesters.
The rebellion’s initial focus on Amini’s murder prompted countless women across the country to remove their hijabs and often burn them, leading to speculation that the regime would not be able to restore the status quo even after the protests died down. After a few months, that speculation led to reports that the morality police had been disbanded and that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had expressed openness to changes to the forced veil law. Both the news proved to be false.
The claim of the end of the Ethics Patrol was credited to the Attorney General of Iran, but it was never within his authority to dissolve the institution, and his comment was made the most in the context of pending changes in its name, leadership or operations. More likely.
Khamenei’s claims of openness to such an agreement were even more difficult to substantiate, as they appeared in the wake of a speech in which he explicitly stated that the hijab was an “insurmountable necessity”. In fact, the Supreme Leader was urging his followers not to provoke further public reaction by punishing the women as apostates, but to focus on bringing them back to his fold, whether through persuasion or conversion. It is an instruction that is certainly in line with the idea of poisoning schoolgirls in order to terrorize them into compliance.
The inaccurate reporting on Khamenei’s December speech is reminiscent of an old Western tendency to assume that Tehran is capable of internal reform.
Traditionally, the most optimistic Western policymakers have supported the idea that Tehran can be coerced into reform through its association with a so-called moderate political bloc. It’s particularly ridiculous to suggest that Khamenei himself could be that change agent, but it seems to be something some have adopted by default since the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards consolidated power and almost all purported reformists. has been pushed out. government during the last two election cycles.
Amid widespread public outcry, in 2021, Ibrahim Raisi was appointed President of the Islamic Republic, known as the “Butchers of Tehran” for his role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners as well as the mass murder of 1,500. Condemned him as protests in November 2019. Amnesty International condemned the election as a “grim reminder that the Supreme reigns supreme in Iran”, yet Western policy has still not changed to reflect the reality that Iran’s democratic system is fundamentally incapable of reform. .
This reality was expressed last week by resistance leader Maryam Rajavi, who has been nominated by Iran’s National Council of Resistance to serve as transitional president following the regime’s overthrow. Speaking before a congressional hearing presenting a bipartisan resolution in support of the ongoing insurgency, Rajavi said:
“The world has seen that despite the killing and imprisonment, the Iranian regime has neither the intention nor the ability to offer a solution. Instead, the mullahs know only one way out, which is more torture, execution, and repression. The regime’s destructive economic policies and corruption, as well as increased repression, only deepen the divide between the Iranian people and the ruling democracy.”
This means that there is still time for the United Kingdom, the European Union and its member states, as well as the US government, to adopt policies that are in line with the recent Congressional resolution, and provide real support for the Iranian protesters , which is beyond mere. Verbal condemnation of human rights abuses that have been prominent so far.
Under the previous administration, the US took an important first step by designating the Revolutionary Guards – the unit most responsible for cracking down on dissent within Iran – as a terrorist organization. Now, the current administration should urge all US allies to follow suit and join multilateral efforts to weaken Iran’s repressive institutions and empower civilian populations. If Western powers take prudent steps in that direction, it is certain that the coming Iranian calendar year will indeed mark a “new day” for that nation.