By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
The Iranian regime is encountering several warning signs domestically that could endanger its hold on power if not resolved or addressed adequately.
First of all, it is important to point out that the Iranian regime is traditionally a monolithic establishment, in which the various political parties and figures are united with one voice when it comes to major issues domestically, regionally and globally. All the different political parties and politicians are a critical part of the political establishment. Many of them, including former President Hassan Rouhani, were robust supporters or founding fathers of the Iranian theocracy.
In addition, in order to be a politician in Iran, one’s loyalty to the core pillars of the political establishment must be firmly proven. Vilayat-e Faqih is the core pillar of Shiite political thought expounded by the late Ayatollah Khomeini. It forces a guardianship-based political system on the people and requires that a Shiite religious figure be the leader of the nation.
Furthermore, another key requirement of being part of the state apparatus, to run for public office or to be a politician is to endorse the basic rules of supporting and obeying the supreme leader, as well as the mission of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other military forces to spread Iran’s revolutionary and religious doctrines both inside the country and beyond its borders.
If, at any point, someone shows even a slight sign of questioning, challenging or disobeying these rules, or if their loyalty to the regime is doubted, they will face severe consequences, including imprisonment, house arrest or disqualification from running for office or even working for the theocratic establishment.
Nevertheless, this unity now appears to be falling apart as a result of the protests that erupted in September due to the death of Mahsa Amini. Major political figures have begun criticizing the establishment. For example, former President Mohammed Khatami last week warned the government and stood with the protesters who are rising up against the theocratic regime.
Khatami said: “I advise the officials to appreciate this presence (of protesters) and instead of dealing with it inappropriately, take a softer approach and listen to them and with their help, recognize the wrong aspects of governance before it is too late for them to move toward good governance.
“It should not be allowed that freedom and security be placed against each other, and as a result, freedom is trampled under the pretext of maintaining security, or security, which is a condition for the establishment of order and good order in society,” he added. Khatami also endorsed the popular slogan, “Woman, life, freedom,” calling it a beautiful message “that shows the movement toward a better future.”
In addition to political figures, some political parties are also warning the regime to change its policies before it is too late. The reformist Democracy Party issued an urgent statement in October demanding an overhaul of the system. It stated: “There is an undeniable need to formulate a new constitution according to the requirements of the day and in accordance with the new demands of the people … Only by holding a referendum to amend the constitution and include the people’s demands and resolve the ambiguities can we hope to change the situation, satisfy the people and also create hope for the future.”
Another warning sign is that large numbers of high-level public figures, celebrities and athletes are supporting the protesters and turning against the regime. Their support is unprecedented and is why the regime has threatened celebrities, particularly actresses who are appearing publicly without the mandatory headscarf. In September, Mohsen Mansouri, governor of the province of Tehran, warned that the government would be dealing with “celebrities who fanned the flames of riots and with those who sign (lucrative) contracts with radio and television, but in a time of riots take a stand against security and order. Of course, we may not deal with some cases immediately due to material reasons, but without a doubt we will deal with them after a few days and at the right time.”
Finally, some family members of the highest authorities in Iran are also distancing themselves from the leadership. One prominent example is the sister of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Badri Hosseini Khamenei, who this month criticized the entire establishment and called for the overthrow of her brother’s “despotic caliphate.” She wrote in an open letter: “The regime has brought nothing but suffering and oppression to Iran and Iranians. I hope to see the victory of the people and the overthrow of this tyranny ruling Iran soon.”
In summary, it is a significant warning to the Iranian regime that divisions are appearing in the theocratic establishment and that celebrities and high-level public figures are increasingly turning against the establishment and showing support for the protesters.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh