In the last twenty years, the Middle East has experienced a series of uprisings. The world witnessed the protests that followed the fraudulent 2009 presidential election, which served as an inspiration for other countries and individuals to speak out for change. Subsequently, in the early 2010s, predominantly young people in Arab countries rose up peacefully against oppressive authoritarian regimes, demanding a more democratic political system and a better economic future.
These protests were driven by a variety of common factors, including a lack of reforms, human rights violations, political corruption, economic decline, high unemployment rates, extreme poverty, and a significant proportion of educated but discontented youth.
Since then, the trend of uprisings in the Middle East has continued despite various challenges, particularly in Iran and other countries where dictatorial regimes that are allies of Tehran, which has exerted all efforts to prevent any substantial changes.
The current uprising in Iran poses the most significant challenge to the mullahs’ regime since its establishment in 1979, as it threatens to undermine its legitimacy and exposes the significant gaps in its political and economic structures.
Despite Iran’s significant natural resources, with the world’s second-largest gas reserves and the fifth-largest OPEC oil producer after Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, most Iranian citizens suffer from poverty.
This is largely due to the mullahs’ control over the country’s income and wealth, causing widespread pain and suffering among the populace. The protests began due to poor economic and social conditions, as well as longstanding social issues.
However, the people’s desire to reclaim the values of the 1979 revolution that had been confiscated by the regime caused the protests to swiftly acquire a political dimension.
Then the uprising of 2009 erupted in protest of the results of the presidential election, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured his second term as the regime’s president.
As the protests reached their climax and citizens began making political demands, internal conflicts arose. Recognizing the potential threat to their regime, the mullahs resorted to extreme and brutal measures to suppress the defenseless demonstrators.
After numerous scattered and small-scale protests, a new wave of protests began on December 30, 2017, in Mashhad, with protestors demanding the overthrow of the regime and targeting its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, for the first time. The demonstrations were a response to the disastrous economic situation in the country, which had left the people starving, while the regime squandered billions of dollars on its proxy militias and supported terrorist groups in the Middle East.
The protests spread to over 40 cities, with demonstrators calling for freedom, a better standard of living, and an end to poverty. Unlike previous protests, including the 2009 uprising, this demonstration covered more cities, including those located in border areas. The protesters also made it clear that they no longer want this regime and are not fooled by the façade of moderates vs hardliners that the regime has put up for decades. One of the main slogans of this uprising was: “Reformers, hardliners, the game is over!”
Following the announcement of a 300% increase in gasoline prices by the regime in November 2019, a chain of popular protests erupted in Iran. The uprising brought together diverse generations and social groups, with citizens from all walks of life participating. Men and women stood in solidarity with each other, and women led the protests in all regions, even in small towns. Fearing its total collapse, the regime responded with sheer brutality, and security forces gunned down and killed at least 1,500 protesters across Iran.
It is worth noting that the events in Iran are closely tied to the economic and living conditions that particularly affect the youth and women. Over 3 million people are currently unemployed, and most of the population lives below the poverty line. Moreover, the bad economic situation has resulted in nearly 7 million students dropping out of school and joining the labor market. Some provinces lack basic services, further exacerbating the situation.
The ongoing uprising has demonstrated that it is not a typical or routine occurrence. Its progression sets it apart from previous uprisings that have taken place in Iran in recent years, and, in other words, it has created a new phenomenon that is altering the landscape of the country.
The current uprising in Iran is the culmination of numerous uprisings that have occurred against the mullahs’ regime since the revolution that resulted in Shah’s overthrow. With the resilience and determination of the people, the movement has grown stronger over time.
While the 1979 revolution successfully toppled the Shah, it failed to eliminate the dictatorship, as it was subsequently hijacked by the mullahs.
The prevailing culture among the Iranian people in the current uprising is one of resistance, and as time goes by, their struggle will be shaped by their increasing political awareness and experiences. This is rocking the foundation of the regime.