“History tells us that when evolution becomes impossible, revolution becomes probable,” mentioned Ilan Berman, the senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington D.C., in a recent article in the Washington Times.
According to a survey of Iranian attitudes by GAMAAN, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran, and his personal research, he concluded that most “Iranians are looking beyond ayatollahs and the Islamic Republic.”
For more than four decades, Iranian officials deceived society with the play of ‘the reformists versus the hardliners.’ However, the people experienced both factions during the past 42 years and grasped that they are cuts from the same cloth.
In recent years, Iranians frequently chanted the slogan of “Reformists, principalists, the game is over” as a sign of their distrust in the entire ruling system. On the other hand, the government’s violent response to any objection and grievance shows the existing gap between the state and society.
Nonetheless, political dilemmas are not the only puzzle in Iran’s today. The rift is more profound and deepening every day. The government’s costly and irresponsible policies like regional ambitions and supporting radical proxies, ballistic missile projects, and nuclear bomb-making programs are the flipside of political problems. In fact, the theocratic rule in Iran has brought enormous social phenomena to the people, rather than easing people’s hardship.
These days, the people of Iran are suffering from unprecedented poverty, rampant inflation, skyrocketing prices of essential goods and services, and the coronavirus’s mental, economic, and health complications. All these facts mentioned above are derived from a corrupt and flawed political system. Furthermore, youths and women particularly endure suppression, and the government has banned them from their inherent rights.
Notably, economic dilemmas, oppressive measures, and other disastrous elements have constantly increased during the ayatollahs’ era, regardless of whether a ‘reformist’ president had been in office or a ‘principalist’ one. In other words, the current circumstance in Iran is the outcome of both reformists’ and principalists’ performance.
For instance, in November 2019, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration announced gas price hikes. The issue immediately ignited nationwide protests in around 200 cities across the country. A day later, Rouhani ironically claimed that he was informed about new prices through the TV like many people, attempting to save himself from public ire.
Many loyalists to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), expected Khamenei to cancel the new high prices, said IRGC commander Salar Abnush.
Instead, Khamenei openly declared his support for the gas price hikes and revealed that the heads of the three branches – President Rouhani, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi, and then-Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani – had agreed with the rationing fuel and raising the prices.
Meanwhile, Khamenei ordered the IRGC and the State Security Forces (SSF) to ‘do whatever it takes’ to quell the protests, leading to the death of 1,500 demonstrators and bystanders and the arrest of more than 12,000 people.
Afterward, all prominent leaders of the reformist faction expressed their support for Khamenei’s order, blaming citizens for protesting. However, not only did the bloody crackdown on defenseless people not end protests but citizens continued scattered protests since then, putting the ruling system in a fragile condition.
In such a status quo, the Supreme Leader has purged his reformist rivals and planned to appoint his purposive figure as the President in the June election. “Our nation should not consider the election as a symbol of polarization and should put aside these false divisions between the ‘lefts’ and the ‘rights’… The important issue is the Islamic State in the country,” said Khamenei on March 21.
He sees contraction as the sole instrument to preserve his reign against social protests. However, the clearing of ‘reformists’ rivals signals that society would no longer be duped by hollow promises and is indicative of the people’s genuine willingness for fundamental changes.