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Iran: A Big ‘No’ To Theocracy And A Big ‘Yes’ To Secularism – OpEd

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At no point in history can we find a political system that has been able to rule for a long time over a highly dissatisfied and dismayed nation subjected to all sorts of shortcomings and suppression. A government’s survival depends upon its ability to meet the basic and essential needs of its citizens. For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, the leading institutions of power are at a crossroads between improving citizens’ conditions or being eliminated. It is noteworthy that there is no escape from these two paths, and perhaps the inevitability of this dilemma becomes more tangible only after the presidential election in Iran.

Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, used the scrutiny of the Guardian Council to disqualify the majority of candidates for the presidency, paving the way for Raisi, one of the architects of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, to become the next president. Arman newspaper wrote that” (It seems) there is an insistence on imposing costs on the system in disqualifying unique personalities, such as Ali Larijani, Is-haq Jahangiri, etc. What do they think when they cause the train of the revolution to become more deserted day by day and discourages the people from participating in the elections?”

It is very naive – if not childish – to believe that by appointing this president, Khamenei was not fully aware of his regime’s isolation, both internationally and domestically. As a result, he could no longer be able to seduce the West by posing different individuals as “moderates.” Amnesty International quoted Agnes Callamard as saying: “The fact that Ebrahim Raisi being appointed to the presidency, instead of being investigated for crimes against humanity, murder, forced disparities, and torture is a rapprochement that has been routinely targeted in Iran.”

One may ask what grave challenges and colossal impasse Khamenei must face, eliminating many presidential candidates, including those close to him. Is Khamenei scared of a threat of greater magnitude than those met before? On the contrary, a danger is forcing him to turn his back to his internal allies.

Khamenei has experienced two uprisings in January 2017 and mid-November 2019. In the 2019 uprising, he suppressed the uprising by firing directly and killing at least 1,500 people. According to Iran’s Parliamentary Research Center, before the pandemic, at least 60% of the Iranian population was below the poverty line. After the virus spread, media outlets close to the regime believe about 80% of the population lives between the poverty line and the survival line. The hungry and unemployed army has already been mobilized, and society is in an explosive state. With any spark, like a barrel of gunpowder, it will explode. 

That is why Khamenei issued a fatwa (religious decree), banning the import of the Covid-19 vaccines from France, Britain, and the United States. By doing so, he had planned to keep people occupied by the number of infected and the increased number of COVID-19 deaths, keeping them from planning another uprising. However, many months have passed since, and the post-Corona era is at Khamenei’s doorstep.

Since the 2019 uprising, resistance units had had rapid growth in Iran, similar to when resistance units formed in France after the occupation by Nazi Germany. For example, during the recent presidential election in Iran, these resistance units destroyed Raisi’s posters to the point that Raisi ordered his posters to no longer be used for his campaign.

With this explosive situation in Iranian society, resistance units are spreading all over Iran. Any spark can lead to the explosion of a barrel of gunpowder. As a result, Khamenei has no choice but to pursue a contractionary policy. His choice is not between good and bad, not between bad and worse, but between worse and worst. His ideal plan is to unify his regime so he can suppress any possible uprising by lethal force and not be held accountable. Unfortunately, this policy is a mere indication of despair and weakness. Khamenei would have liked to have other choices to make to prolong the life of its regime longer, but out of his bad luck, society’s explosive state has left him no choice.

Bipolar Society of Iran

The appointment of Raisi is the result of Khamenei’s contractionary policy that spells more internal repression and international terrorism abroad. But, on the other hand, this is an apparent confrontation between the two poles of society. Despite Iran’s vast natural resources and wealth, one pole is Khamenei’s regime, which has caused millions of people to live in poverty. The army of the hungry is led by the middle class, which has gradually been eliminated.

The element of bipolarity has always existed in Iran, somehow subtle in the last few decades. The so-called reformist faction of the regime has long prevented the two poles from clashing with seemingly reformist slogans and pro-Western leanings. The reformists themselves say they have been instrumental in prolonging the regime’s life for up to thirty extra years. 

Despite the reformist’s service to the regime, Khamenei axed all of them in the recent presidential election by disqualifying all so-called reformist and moderate candidates. As a result, Khamenei was forced to install Raisi as the head of the future government of Iran to derail the explosive situation of the society and postpone an inevitable widespread uprising. The question one may ask is: “Will Raisi be able to prevent the fall of this regime?” By eliminating the other presidential candidates, the Supreme Leader has already given his answer to the question raised at the beginning. Taking care of people’s livelihoods and improving their living conditions requires reform and fundamental freedoms, but Khamenei refused to respond at this historical juncture. Because of this reality, the elections were boycotted.

The Large Community of the Iranian Diaspora

The Iranian opposition NCRI believes its forces in Iran, known as resistance units, were largely instrumental in the people’s successful boycott of the election. Therefore, NCRI is holding a large gathering on July 10 to tell the world that the choice of the Iranian people is a pluralistic republic based on the separation of religion and state, and the world should recognize this alternative instead of the regime-based in Iran.

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Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

One thought on “Iran: A Big ‘No’ To Theocracy And A Big ‘Yes’ To Secularism – OpEd

  • June 30, 2021 at 1:05 pm
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    It was bound to happen and would have happened sooner, if the Americans had not invaded Afghanistan and then attacked Iraq.
    The slogan of war is the best way to mobilise the nationalists.
    I believe Iran will emerge stronger from this period of religious control and a good leader can harness this and create an economic powerhouse in the region.

    Reply

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