An important issue that sets this apart from the previous nationwide protests in 2009 and 1999 is the reference made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the party behind these rallies. While Tehran pointing fingers at Washington, London, Israel and the Saudis is not new, Khamenei made a statement in which he pointed to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The significance of this is that it may be an indication of the regime’s real concerns.
According to Reuters, “As well as Washington and London, Khamenei blamed the violence on Israel, exiled dissident group People’s Mujahedin of Iran and ‘a wealthy government’ in the Gulf, a probable reference to Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.”
In his article for Forbes, Heshmat Alavi writes, “This recent wave of protests is setting the grounds with new sets of rules and understandings.” Displayed below, are what Alavi indicates as these new rules and understandings:
1) The Iranian people no longer fear in expressing their true feelings, seen in the nationwide slogan of “Death to Khamenei.” Such a brave measure in the past would bear the potential of earning you a heavy prison term, if not a death sentence.
Once the Islamic Republic’s greatest taboo, chanting “Death to Khamenei” is now the norm in #Iran. Southern schoolkids chant against regime’s Supreme Leader. Doesn’t take a genius to work out Khamenei’s approval rating among parents in the city – via #MEK activists. #IranProtests
— M. Hanif Jazayeri (@HanifJazayeri) 2:58 PM – Jan 8, 2018
2) Unlike previous uprisings, these demonstrations are mushrooming across the country, reaching over 130 cities and towns, according to activists. Places less heard of before, such as Izeh, Dorud, Shahin Shahr and etc. are now seen leading the growing wave of protests. Brave demonstrators are threatening the regime’s very pillars to an extent that security forces have opened fire and killed dozens of protesters, arresting thousands, according to reports.
3) From the second day of this uprising protesters have shown their overcoming of prior fears through responding to the security forces’ attacks and quelling. State vehicles, motorcycles, makeshift police stations and other facilities are being set ablaze by protesters in response to the regime’s unbridled crackdown.