A woman walks past an anti-U.S. painting on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Wednesday. Photo by Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE
Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Sixty million Iranians, 75% of the population, are living below the international poverty line. The grinding privation and penury has driven people to sell their livers, kidneys and even their corneas for cash. Sick organ traders are exploiting the poor to rake in huge profits.
The Iranian currency -- the rial -- is in free fall. It has lost 49% of its value this year, as the United States ramps up economic pressure with renewed sanctions. Iran, as one of the world's leading oil and gas producers, has one of the world's most worthless currencies, with hyper-inflation topping 34.4% annually. Forty-one years of venal corruption, dim-witted incompetence and brutal oppression by the fascist Iranian government has brought this once prosperous and successful nation to its knees.
Revolution is in the air.
When the theocratic regime announced a threefold hike in gasoline prices in November, millions of poor Iranians took to the streets in protest. The mullahs' predictable reaction was to order their Gestapo, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and their internal security thugs -- the Basij -- to brutally suppress the nationwide uprising. Black-clad and masked IRGC snipers gunned down unarmed protesters from the rooftops of government buildings, shooting to kill.
Basij goons beat young demonstrators with batons. Some 1,500 protesters were killed, thousands more were wounded. The IRGC dragged injured protesters from their hospital beds. They were taken to specially prepared torture centers, where many perished. Over 12,000 were arrested and thrown into the regime's medieval prisons. Dozens have been sentenced to death for daring to challenge the authority of the religious dictatorship. The execution of political prisoners has become almost a daily event, as the so-called "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani, in his absurd speech to the United Nations General Assembly, proclaimed that "political freedom at home is very important to us, and as the most ancient democracy in the Middle East, we are proud of our democracy and we will not compromise our freedoms with foreign intervention."
His pathological lies have fooled no one inside Iran.
The seething resentment and antipathy to the clerical regime has begun to boil over. Poverty-stricken Iranians are appalled that their government continues to pour money and military personnel into Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad's bloody civil war. They are horrified that the mullahs are funneling endless Iranian cash to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the vicious Shi'ia militias in Iraq. They are shocked to learn that vast resources are being channeled into the secret production of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles despite Rouhani's international denials. And they are dismayed that corruption and incompetence has seen the death toll from COVID-19 soar to over 125,000 nationwide.
Resistance units of the main, democratic opposition movement, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) have been formed in every town and city in the country. Sporadic outbursts of anger and protests against the regime have occurred daily, with defiant youths torching and vandalizing regime-affiliated sites.
Barely a day goes by without senior regime officials warning of the dangers of another uprising. Even the IRGC has admitted its concern. The Revolutionary Guard chief Hossein Salami said recently, in a clear reference to the MEK: "The enemy has attacked our youth with psychological warfare. This is a battlefield and the focal point of our efforts." The state-run daily Arman, a mouthpiece for the regime, issued a stark warning in a recent editorial, stating: "Our hopes will drown if the barrier of outrage, anger and violence breaks."
Another state-run newspaper, Setareyeh Sobh, said: "The youth are fed up. They are waiting. It was just two weeks ago when social media users tweeted 12 million times the hashtag 'do not execute' in protest to death sentences for three youths arrested during the November 2019 incidents. If this match is lit, putting down the fire will be very difficult." It was a reference to the nationwide social media campaign that caused the regime to halt the execution of three young protesters.
The regime did, however, go ahead with the execution of the young wrestling champion Navid Afkari, despite a global campaign to stop his judicial murder. His hanging has further outraged young Iranians who regarded Afkari as a sporting hero. Courageous young protesters vandalized a courthouse in Shiraz, which had passed the death sentence on Afkari. Several other courts were attacked by rebellious protesters across Iran, including Khavaran district court, which had issued orders to demolish the makeshift homes of impoverished people.
Young resistance fighters have also attacked IRGC and Basij bases in towns and cities throughout Iran. A center for promoting fundamentalist Islam was torched in Karaj. Banners, posters and images of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and of the terrorist IRGC Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed by a drone strike in January, have been repeatedly targeted and set on fire by protesters. Marchers in street protests routinely chant slogans such as "the Supreme Leader's end is near," and "rise up to avenge Navid's execution."
Anti-regime slogans and messages from the Iranian Resistance leader Massoud Rajavi, and president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran Maryam Rajavi regularly appear on walls and hoardings. In Karaj, brave young resistance fighters set fire to the Basij "Women's Unit" headquarters. The "women's unit" is particularly detested for its role in enforcing the Islamic Republic's misogynistic dress and behavior laws. They are notorious for vicious crackdowns on women and girls who stand up for their rights and defy the strict hijab rules.
As resistance to the mullahs continues to grow across Iran, there are increasing demands for the international community to end their policy of appeasement and show their support for the Iranian people. The ongoing torture and execution of political prisoners is a crime against humanity and continues because the United Nations has singularly failed to hold the mullahs' regime to account for the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly supporters of the MEK, in 1988. Although there is irrefutable evidence of this horrendous crime, which even senior figures in the regime openly admit and boast about, no one has yet been indicted for this horror, one of the worst cases of genocide of the late 20th century.
The revolution is coming and when it does, the mullahs will face justice and those in the international community who have sought to appease them will be held answerable and shamed in the court of public opinion.
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. 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 and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.