If 2018 saw a Wave of Protests, 2019 Will see a Tsunami
On January 1st, 2019, Al Arabiya published a retrospective look at Iran’s protest movement in 2018. The piece describes 2018 as “a year like no other for the Iranian regime”. The year began with a vast nationwide uprising orchestrated by the Iranian opposition and the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) and “while these protests have vanished from the media headlines, they have certainly not ceased”.
2018 hosted the “most serious and biggest opposition demonstrations since 2009”, “shaking the very pillars of this regime”. The wave of protests that swept across the nation sent a strong message to international onlookers. It exposed the regime’s vulnerabilities and shortcomings and showed that the Iranian people are ready for regime change.
A Determined Population
Nowhere has this readiness been more visible than in the chants of the Iranian protestors. The Iranian public has showcased their fury with a wide repertoire of chants aimed at the regime and its leadership.
“Death to Khamenei” and “Death to Rouhani” have rung out at public protests in 2018. Fuelled by an intensifying economic crisis, the Iranian people have decried regime mismanagement and corruption.
Over 80% of the Iranian population now lives below the poverty line. With the rial skyrocketing, unemployment rising, Iranian purchasing power falling, many workers are struggling to put food on the table for their families.
#Iran Will See More Protests and Isolation in 2019
At the start of 2018, Iran was besieged by nationwide anti-regime protests and the world was watching. These protests continued over the course of the year and into 2019,..https://t.co/8Rdz3qam8w #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/E87tUo1hmJ
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) January 2, 2019
While Iranian’s eek out a difficult existence at home, the regime has continued to funnel money to international terrorist organizations, militia groups around the Middle East, and into the mullahs’ own pockets through elaborate money laundering and corrupt practices.
All the while, the regime maintains that it is not their own destructive practices and economic mismanagement that is causing the current crisis, but foreign players and Western governments.
The Iranian public has shown that they are no longer willing to swallow these lies. Chants of, “our enemy are right here” and “they lie and say it’s America!” have become increasingly common. Chants like “not Gaza. Not Lebanon. My life for Iran” expose the public’s disapproval of the regime’s support for foreign militant groups ahead of its own population.
A Broad Section of the Public
The Iranian regime is right to fear these mounting protests. The 2018 protests brought out segments from all walk of Iranian life, from farmers to teachers, to investors, steelworkers, students, and retirees.
Even demographics that have traditionally made up part of the mullahs’ support base have turned their attention to overthrowing the regime. The lower-classes hit hardest by the plunging currency value and loss of purchasing power, are increasingly turning out to protest the regime.
Bazaar workers, that played a central role in bringing the regime to power, have turned against the mullahs, launching strikes and protests to vent their mounting frustrations.
With international sanctions biting, this domestic pressure is like a “noose around the regime”. With every protest and every strike, this noose gets tighter.
This is evident in Khamenei’s narrative. 2018 saw US sanctions become an increasingly present theme in his public speeches, demonstrating the regime’s concern over economic constrictions.
The MEK has also made an appearance in Khamenei’s public narrative. He publicly blamed the opposition group for the January nationwide uprising, and the regime has intensified its smear campaign against the group in an attempt to control public opinion.
President Hassan Rouhani even asked French President Emmanuel Macron to take action against the MEK in France, which the French President resolutely refused to do. Nothing demonstrates the effectiveness of the pro-democracy group and the threat they pose to the regime’s existence more than this knee-jerk response from the Iranian clerical regime.
2019 will likely be worse for the Iranian regime. Eight countries currently exempt from the oil embargo on Iranian oil will be forced to stop importing oil from Iran in May. This will have serious repercussions on the mullahs’ revenue streams.
The signs of a regime in decline are already present, but 2019 will see these signs play out across the pages of the international media. In the face of such clear decline, international governments will be forced to rethink their Iran policies and the clerical regime will find itself isolated on the international political stage.
As the regime becomes more isolated, there will be an increasing number of opportunities for the Iranian people to protest. This, combined with further economic freefall, will bring the winds of change to Iran. This determination will bring meaningful change to the Iranian population and ensure a brighter, more prosperous, democratic future for Iran. If 2018 was a wave of protests, 2019 will be a tsunami, and the mullahs will find themselves washed away.