Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authoreda book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva.
“Five years after the Arab Spring, Iran’s turn has finally come,” a headline in the Iraqi paper Al-Mada claimed last week.
Wael Kindil, the writer of the article, thinks that because life has become unbearable in Iran under the regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei the dictator will eventually be removed from power.
“We might not see the revolution succeed this time, but the moment will eventually come. UItimately, the mullahs, just like other tyrants in the region will be toppled and brought to justice,” according to Kindil.
On Sunday, the regime indicated that it could indeed survive the latest popular uprising and lifted a ban on the use of the messaging app Telegram which is used by 40 million Iranians and was an important tool to organize the protests.
Associated Press reported residents of Iranian cities, including Shiraz, Isfahan, Bandar Abbas, Rasht, and Oromieh confirmed access to the app had been restored.
The wave of unrest, which began on December 28, 2017, now appears to have died down after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) got involved and started a massive crackdown on the protesters, a majority of them young people who were extremely angry about the way the regime dealt with the more than $100 billion in extra revenues which came available under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement between six world powers and the Islamic Republic.
At least 22 people died during the IRGC crackdown and between 1,000 and 8,000 people were arrested during the uprising, depending on whom you ask. The National Council of Resistance in Iran reported eight prisoners on death row were also executed in prisons during the same period to intimidate the young protesters.
The council called upon “all international human rights organizations to adopt immediate and effective steps to counter the systematic and brutal violations of human rights in Iran.”
While much of the media still blames new austerity measures by the government of President Hassan Rouhani for the outbreak of the uprising, which notably began in Mashad a city regarded as a bulwark of ultra-conservatives, people in Iran say something different.
The Teachers Trade Unions Coordination Council (TTUC) in Iran, for example, said that “untenable management at various levels…as well as widespread abuse of official positions," was the main reason people decided to take the streets again.
While acknowledging that poor economic conditions also played a role the council said "systematic discrimination and corruption" in Iran were the driving force behind the unrest which the regime blamed on a Zionist and American conspiracy financed by Saudi Arabia.
Felice Friedson of Media Line has been one of the few journalists who has been able to talk with Iranians who participated in the demonstrations and she reported the initial protests in Mashad- Iran’s second largest city- were initiated by two leaders of an underground team.
The two coordinators of the protests in Mashad said people were fed up with the corruption of the regime and pointed to the fact that nothing of the more than $100 billion in sanction relief under the JCPOA has reached ordinary Iranians who are struggling to make ends meet.
Young people who make up more than 60 percent of the Iranian people saw that despite the enormous amount of money which was released before and after the implementation of the JCPOA and a 4-5 percent growth in Iran’s GDP, nothing changed and youth unemployment remained at an all-time high of almost 29 percent.
At the same time, the Iranian people know the IRGC is heavily involved in illegal foreign trade worth $20 billion annually and saw that the organization’s annual budget rose to a staggering $7,4 billion in 2017, an increase of 24 percent.
The rise in the budget of the IRGC came on top of the roughly $10 billion Iran spend on its war effort in Syria and in addition to the generous aid to Shiite terror groups such as Hezbollah, Ansar Allah (Yemen), Hashd al-Shaabi (Iraq), Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
At the end of December 2017, Iranian opposition groups led by a man called ‘Behrouz’, a former prominent member of Iran’s security forces who fled Iran five years ago, activated sleeper cells within cities in the Islamic Republic.
‘Behrouz’ works, among others, with The New Iran a grassroots organization of Iranians living in exile and in the Islamic Republic which works to liberate the Iranian people.
“Our goal is to help eradicate the ruling Islamic regime in Iran using non-violent means, and to replace it with a democratic, secular form of governance that is cognizant of human rights and our historic place in the world,” The New Iran group says in a statement on its website.
The new Iranian opposition group has teams of activists in most Iranian cities with each team numbering up to 500 members, Behrouz revealed. The organization has now formed 130 of these teams but members often don’t know each other and for security reasons, they communicate via Telegram.
The teams received training on public relations, research on corrupt members of the regime and in organizing non-violent popular protests.
Another opposition group, the Silent Majority Project, tries to reach out to the Iranian population via a weekly satellite television broadcast but had to stop the program due to a lack of funding.
The group now airs its program on Facebook.
All groups try to mobilize the Iranian youth and are working to turn workers strikes into anti-government protests.
Behrouz says that the overall ultimate goal of the anti-regime groups is to organize a non-fraudulent referendum in Iran where the people will decide on the future of the country.
Behrouz and his comrades say that open support by world leaders like US President Donald Trump and also Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, as well as fast and unfiltered internet access, are extremely important for the chances to overthrow the Islamist regime in Tehran in the long run.
Behrouz also stated that the Iranian people have no problem with Netanyahu or the Jewish State and said that the PM’s recent statements on the protests in Iran had been translated in Farsi and distributed via social media.
He also emphasized the new Iranian opposition groups believe “in equal rights for all people” across the globe.
The latest news from Iran is that the regime is torturing protesters who were detained during the revolt and has already executed six of them.