In November 2019, a protest in nearly 200 cities in all provinces across Iran shook the establishment to its core, as people came out into the streets with calls for regime change, democracy, and “death to the dictator.”
Some of the biggest areas of participation were previously thought to be ayatollahs’ strongholds, but during the protest, it became increasingly clear that there is widespread popular support for regime change.
This actually built on the previous nationwide protest in December 2017, which was the largest protest in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Both recent protests began over economic concerns—the rising cost of food and gas respectively—but quickly became about regime change, with people chanting “hardliners, reformists: the game is over” because it was obvious that the ayatollahs were the problem.
After all, they had the money to fix the issue, but they didn’t. Instead, in both instances, they cracked down violently with arrests and murders. In the November 2019 protests, they shot dead 1,500 people in the streets in just a few days.
Iranian opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI) which helped organize the protests. This is really what the state is worried about, even going so far as to admit that the MEK was involved when for decades they have tried to pretend that the MEK has little support in Iran. In reality, the government sees the MEK as the only group capable of overthrowing it, which is why they tried to exterminate the MEK in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.
“Although they would never say so explicitly, there are clear signs that Iranian officials recognize this phenomenon and are afraid of it. Among those signs are their public expressions of commitment to a violent crackdown, particularly one that is focused on resuming past efforts to destroy the MEK in its entirety,” wrote Alejo Vidal-Quadras, President of the International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ).
This is what led to the thousands of people murdered in the streets and is still resulting in the murders of MEK members and protesters by the Iranian security forces today. But the international community is doing nothing.
“It is [ridiculous] to think that the feared international scrutiny will not expand to include the 1,500 people who were killed one year ago this month or the others who have been marked for execution since then. At least, it would be ridiculous to think these things, if not for the fact that there is a long history of Iran’s human rights abuses being ignored, especially when they involve the organized Resistance movement,” ISJ President wrote.
“No one has been held accountable in an international court for the 1988 massacre and last November’s crackdown has barely been mentioned in policy discussions in Western democracies. Sadly, it remains to be seen whether Western powers will rectify these oversights before Tehran tries again to destroy the democratic opposition,” Vidal-Quadras concluded.