January 10, 2018

Iran: Rioting, Day 14

Vadym Volokhov

January 10, 2018, was the end of the second week of protests in Iran. As predicted, the energy got exhausted, the protests moved into the phase of local small-numbered manifestations and faded away. The revolution was not born, the social rebellion remained unorganized riots and, by inertia, will last, perhaps, for a few more days.

Rural areas did not support the protests and that is understandable. The villagers are more conservative and inert, more loyal to the clerical regime. They are less affected by unemployment and rise in food prices.

The number of meetings and demonstrations has dropped significantly, fewer and fewer people participate in them, and this can be explained by the lack of:

  • leader and organizational resources;
  • support from the opposition;
  • support from local elites.

Incidentally, as for an organizer of the protests, on January 6 was arrested former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is accused of “provoking protests against the state”.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in his statement, accused the United States and the West of incitement of Iranians to oppose the regime.

But accusing former conservative president M. Ahmadinejad of stirring up riots and having ties with the West provokes a good laugh…


January 6, a United Nations Security Council's meeting on the situation in Iran took place on the initiative of the United States. Even before it was clear that the meeting was “just another one and the resolution would be purely declarative”. There were disagreements between Washington and its allies in Europe, even in the interpretation of events in Iran. We will return to the question of the reasons and consequences of the protests later, but so far it is safe to say that the riot in Iran has played directly into US President D. Trump's hands in the “nuclear issues”. From the very beginning, D. Trump was against the “Iranian nuclear deal” and now he has the opportunity to break it.

It would be wrong to think that the protests were futile. They made the regime to face the choice: to draw conclusions and take certain measures to address the most painful social problems in order to prevent a rebellion, at least in the near future. If the authorities choses to intensify repressions, the rebellion will become inevitable, and in this case, there will be a leader of the protest movement.

On the other hand, national minorities and the rural population did see the weakness of the central government, and this can inspire them, under certain circumstances, for future protests against the regime.

The Tudeh Party in exile, political wing of MEK (People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran), Kurdish parties abroad, the son of Shah Pahlavi — this is the opposition that tried to support the protests in Iran. But none of these parties, wings or individuals has any significant credibility among the Iranian people and it cannot cope with its role of the leader and organizer.


The Tudeh Party of Iran (translit. Ḥezb-e Tude-ye Iran, Party of the Masses of Iran) is a Marxist-Leninist party, established in Iran in 1941. It is the heir to the Iranian Communist Party.

After the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979, the Tudeh Party got an opportunity to work legally and it took part in presidential and parliamentary elections. In 1982, the Islamic regime closed the Party's newspaper and began the persecution of party members. Within a short period of time, more than 5,000 members and supporters of the Tudeh Party were arrested. In February 1983 the Party was banned. In 1988, the last wave of cleansing of the Iranian society from the members of the Tudeh Party took place and hundreds of them were executed in prisons.

Today, a propaganda campaign to intimidate the population is being widely conducted in Iran. The authorities accuse the participants of the protest actions “of supporting the external enemy” and warn against “severe sentences, including deaths”.

The Tasnim news agency issued a statement by the Head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court Hujjat al-Islam Mousa Ghazanfarabadi (Hujjat al-Islam is one of the higher Shi'a religious titles, roughly corresponding to the rank of an episcopal in Christianity), in which he stressed that “all the detainees are due to a severe punishment, because they are not protesters, but rebels trying to harm the state”.

According to the ISNA news agency, as of January 9, 2018, about 1,000 protesters were arrested, including 90 students alone (58 students of Tehran's universities, the rest — from other cities).

So, the protests showed serious internal problems, which are the result of the wars that Iran conducts in Syria and Iraq. The level of seriousness and scale of problems is similar to the problems of 1979, which had led Iran to changing the Shah's regime. Apparently, it's time for the authorities to change approaches and take into account the possibility of transformation of the current regime if not its collapse.