Opinions - 09.11.2022 - 14:27 

Iran – Regime of hypocrisy and people of hope

Since the death of Mahsa Amini on 16, September, the Islamic regime in Iran has been experiencing the largest civil protests since coming to power. A personal perspective from Omid Ghavibazoo, an Iranian citizen and recent doctoral graduate of the University of St.Gallen (HSG).

Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old girl beaten to death by morality police in Iran for wearing a hijab that was deemed inappropriate, sparked the protests with the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”. At the forefront are freedom-loving girls and women who, shoulder to shoulder with men, are demanding an upheaval of the current government. Mahsa Amini has become a symbol of more than four decades of humiliation of women and girls. She symbolizes the oppression that Iranian women have been unjustly subjected to. Mahsa Amini is also a symbol of ethnic and religious identity due to being both Kurdish and Sunni, two ethnic groups that have been humiliated and suppressed by the ruling government for many years. With an area of 4.5 times the size of a vast country like Germany, Iran is home to many ethnicities such as Azeris, Turks, Kurds, Lors, Arabs, Persians, Baluchs and Armenians, together with many religious minorities, including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. Within the last 43 years, the Islamic government’s oppression of all religious and ethnic minorities has angered all levels of society, leaving no space for reforms of any kind. Therefore, the current protests seek to overthrow the regime and create a free government for all Iranian religions, cultures and ethnicities, which (unlike the current regime) does not seek to destroy or be enemy with other countries and allows a constructive interaction with the free world.

Hypocrisy in the Islamic regime
The Islamic regime came to power in 1979 with the people’s revolution. This regime is a jurisprudential government. Jurisprudence refers to the set of religious laws deduced and implemented by Faqih (clergyman). One of the things this government struggles with is an explicit and inherent contradiction that claims to adhere to and enforce religious-moral principles. Yet, it is allowed to abandon any virtue and commit any evil to protect itself and its foundation from danger. The use of lies, denial and hypocrisy in the behavior and political policies of the rulers have been systematically institutionalized. This hypocrisy can be found in the way the government deals with current events. An example of this hypocrisy is that while officials and clerics support the principles of the Islamic system and demonise their enemies in western countries, many of them send their children and family members to live outside of Iran. Especially to countries listed as enemies of the Islamic regime, such as the United States. As one example among many, the son of former Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs (Masoumeh Ebtekar), who was the spokeswoman for the Islamic student revolutionaries that seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, lives in the United States.

Young generation turning away from ideology 
Iran’s population currently exceeds 85 million people, of which 46% are under 29 years of age. Compared to Germany's 30% and Switzerland's 32% the population of Iran is relatively young. Unlike previous generations, the Iranian young generation (born in 2000 and later) was born in the world of smartphones, meaning that smartphones and the Internet have always been available to them. This has allowed them to be much less influenced by the ideological teachings of the current government than previous generations. 

This younger generation has been afforded a wider private domain and is very different from the previous generations who were born after the 1979 revolution (like me). In my generation, we could not fully recognize the rules of the Islamic regime as limitations or restrictions since we did not have access to Internet. In addition, our parents who have witnessed the executions and assassinations in 1979 revolution, were always prohibiting us to confront the government. The previous generations had grown up in an environment where the central premise for managing and controlling society was “negation and prohibition”. A perfect example of this is Iran’s morality police, whose philosophy is to dictate the proper dress code for women. But the new generation has a broader view of the concept of freedom, fundamental human rights, and the equality of men and women.

In recent years, the young Iranian population has not paid much attention to the lies and official promises of the government. With every incident, the gap between society and the government becomes wider, and the religious totalitarian government attempts to control the people with even bigger lies and violence. By doing so, they try to divert public opinion from the fact that this government will make every possible effort for its survival, even at the cost of killing innocent people and disregarding human rights. For perfect examples of the regime’s recent violence, I can refer to killing of at least 1500 citizens within two weeks in November 2019 called “Bloody Aban”. In January 2020, they shot down Ukrainian passenger flight “PS752” using two war missiles, killing 176 passengers and Ukrainian crew and spreading lies to change public opinion about their brutality.

Manifestation of despair
In addition to the moral decline of the government, the Islamic government has accomplished little for its people since the proclamation of the Iranian Republic. From an economic perspective, it should be mentioned that high inflation in the recent decade (40.2% last year), the dependence on oil exports, and the fall in GDP per capita of the current year to the levels of 43 years ago, continue to plague the country. Environmental concerns due to the improper management of water resources have led to the drying up of several lakes, consequently causing local protests for the lack of drinking water in several Iranian provinces. Incompetency in all aspects has led to the destruction of hopes and dreams of the young generation; they see no future ahead of them. A clear manifestation of despair is reflected in the high number of educated and elite immigrants who have moved abroad in the last two decades. According to the country’s official statistics in 2018, 180,000 people migrate out of Iran every year, and Iran is one of the countries struggling with brain drain. The protests of the last decade were mainly due to economic and environmental reasons, and the low-income sections of society played a significant role. Today we are witnessing an event whose focus is no longer an economic demand but an authentic libertarian demand that is trans-religious and trans-cultural.

Call for action
There is no return from this critical point in history: The regime has been in its weakest position in time and started taking all nasty measures for its survival. Iranian citizens inside and outside the country are more united than ever for regime change. I believe if this movement does not succeed, the consequences would be unbridled violence and immense repression from the regime against its nation, which might lead to another global migration crisis. 

Even though Western countries are currently struggling with economic recessions of the Post-COVID era and the war between Russia and Ukraine, I hope they recognize the genuine freedom-seeking movement of the Iranian people and support them. This does not necessarily mean military support, but support in other ways can speed up the fall of this regime by imposing more economic sanctions, not making any further deals with the regime, cutting off diplomatic relations and not recognizing this regime in other ways. By doing so, this revolution will cost fewer lives for the freedom-loving people of Iran. In this sense, I would like to recall the Persian poem that is written at the entrance of the United Nations building in New York. It is by Saadi Shirazi, who wrote the lines in the thirteenth century.

Human beings are members of a whole, 
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain, 
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

Omid Ghavibazoo was born in 1989 in Iran. He moved to Switzerland in 2017 and recently completed his PhD studies in Finance at the Institute of Insurance Economics (I.VW), University of St.Gallen.

Image: Keystone / Protest in Teheran, Iran (October 2022)

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