MEK Iran: Women Leaders in the November 2019 Uprisings
November 15 marked the anniversary of the November 2019 Uprisings in Iran. The nationwide anti-government protests shook the clerical regime to its foundations and brought renewed international attention to the Iranian Resistance movement, lead by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran). Women stood at the forefront of the protests, forcing even regime leaders to acknowledge their role in organizing and leading the rebellion. One year later, the impact of the uprisings lives on, and the people of Iran are closer to regime change than ever before.
People of #Iran are taking to the streets to voice their discontent with the #Iranian regime People from all across the country from very different backgrounds have joined together to make the Iranian regime hear their dissenthttps://t.co/ABEVWHfFt0#MEK #COVID19 @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/iXAcna8VTz
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) May 16, 2020
On November 15, 2019, the Iranian regime announced a sudden hike in fuel prices, which was to take effect immediately. Outraged Iranians poured into the streets to protest the increase, which tripled the price of some fuels, and their anger soon shifted into a fervent desire for regime change. People in 200 cities in all 31 provinces in Iran demanded change, chanting, “Death to (regime President) Rouhani!” and “Death to (Supreme Leader) Khameini!”
MEK Resistance Units on the ground in every city in Iran mobilized angry citizens in their protests for a new and democratic government. Women were the natural leaders of these protests for two important reasons. First, women have been subjected to some of the harshest treatment under the theocratic dictatorship. Iranian women are given few legal rights, are not protected from domestic or sexual abuse, and do not even have the right to choose their own clothing. Under this oppression, the strong women of Iran have harbored growing anger for four decades.
Second, the MEK affirms gender equality, and women make up approximately half of its leadership. The (PMOI / MEK Iran) has a large and influential presence in Iran, and women have joined its ranks as members and supporters.
Even state-affiliated media were struck by the significance of women in the November Uprisings. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-affiliated Fars news agency commented on the phenomenon after the uprisings, writing, “Women’s special role in running and leading the recent riots seemed remarkable. In numerous places, particularly in Tehran suburbs, women who were apparently between 30 to 35 years old had a special role in leading the riots.
“These women wore the same garbs, each had a different role; one filmed the riots, the other stopped the cars, and another one incited the people to join the ranks of riots,” the news agency added.
A Brutal Response
The protesters came very close to overthrowing the regime by virtue of their sheer numbers and will. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded to the threat to his rule by shutting down the nation’s internet access to prevent the world from witnessing the events unfolding and then brutally suppressing the uprising.
Khamenei ordered the IRGC to fire on protesters at will, giving his security forces free rein to shoot unarmed citizens at random. 1,500 protesters were killed by security forces in the streets of Iran. Snipers shot into crowds from rooftops, paramilitary forces fired randomly into streets filled with people from helicopters, and plainclothes agents swung at wounded protesters with axes. 4,500 protesters were injured during the protests, and 12,000 were arrested. Some of the injured were dragged from their hospital beds by security forces and taken to prison.
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) December 16, 2019
Khamenei’s attempt to shut down the internet was not completely successful. Tech-savvy youth managed to smuggle out pictures and videos of the protests and brutal suppression as it happened, drawing international support for the protesters and condemnation against the regime.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the regime’s actions, saying, “Security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill. These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.”