A little girl poses with portrait of Armin Sadeghi, 13, killed during demonstrations in Iran, as the Iranian community in Belgium gather in front of EU institutions headquarters, in Brussels on Wednesday. Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE
Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, blames the uprising in his country on "enemies of Iran." He is mistaken.
People like me who openly support the brave protesters who risk their lives on the streets of that nation's villages, towns and cities are not the enemies of Iran. On the contrary, we are the friends of Iran and its beleaguered people. We are the enemies of the clerical tyrants who have driven that country to the brink of deprivation and despair over the past 39 years of oppression and corruption.
After seven days of rioting involving hundreds of thousands of protesters, the terrified clerical regime has instructed Gen. Ali Jafari, the head of its criminal Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, recently listed as an international terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department, to claim that "the sedition" has been put down and that only 15,000 "troublemakers" in total had taken to the streets over the past week of riots. The regime even instructed the wives and families of its brutal Basij paramilitary force, to participate in mock pro-government demonstrations, in an attempt to persuade observers that their faltering tyranny still enjoys broad support.
The truth is quite the opposite. Mass protests are continuing. Over 30 people have been killed and around 1,000 have been arrested; many will now face rape, torture and the death penalty. But the courageous protesters will not be cowed. Iran's 80 million citizens are sick of a corrupt regime that has bankrupted their country while supporting Bashar al-Assad's bloody civil war in Syria, the vicious Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the ruthless Shi'ia militias that are still rampaging across Iraq.
Forty percent of the population is under the age of 25, and unemployment is over 40 percent. Savage price rises for basic commodities have exacerbated a worsening economic situation where millions of out-of-work Iranians can no longer afford to feed their families, while they witness their oil wealth being plundered to fund the export of conflict and terror and to feather the lavish nests of the mullahs, who live in matchless luxury.
The Iranian regime claims to represent God's will on earth, yet regards women as second-class citizens, hangs people in public, condones torture, arbitrary imprisonment, eye-gouging, stoning, whipping and amputation. The U.N. is investigating how the regime executed over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988. Amnesty International last August published a 94-page report titled "Caught in a web of repression: Iran's human rights defenders under attack." It detailed 45 specific instances of what the organization described as a "vicious crackdown" coinciding with the supposedly moderate presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who has presided over some 3,500 executions since he took office in 2013.
The West's policy of appeasement toward Iran must now come to a shuddering stop in the wake of these mass protests. The world now looks to the United States, European Union and U.N. to show leadership and determination in backing the 80 million beleaguered Iranians who ache and pray for the removal of this corrupt and medieval regime. We must show our outright support for the democratic opposition, the People's Mojahedin's of Iran and their charismatic leader Maryam Rajavi. They are poised and ready to restore human rights, women's rights, freedom, justice and democracy to this long-suffering nation.
It will indeed by a Happy New year for Iran if Khamenei and his band of evil cronies are consigned to the dustbin of history.
Struan Stevenson is president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East.