Iranians have revolted against the Islamic Republic regime many times and have been suppressed each time, but the past is not necessarily a guide to the present.

Regime sympathizers in the West, who want the Islamic Republic to remain in power do not actually verbalize their desire. Instead, they declare that the regime’s survival is not in doubt. They base their rationale for spreading seeds of despair on how forcefully previous unrests were crushed. As such, they suggest we must resign to the notion that the past is irrefutably prologue.

But this revolt is different. Let us review some of the realities in a “then and now” schematic.

Dealing with the Repressive Machinery

The world is dealing with a new generation of Iranians. Iranian generations Y and Z are different from the nondescript and timid generations of the past. They are especially distinct from that of the "reform" period. This was my generation. When we came to the streets, we would listen to the words of self-appointed reformist leaders and protest in silence. When the riot police beat us with batons, we would chant, "Police force! Support us! Support!" Instead, a girl of generation Z sets her headscarf ablaze in front of the security forces and the boy saves his friend from the clutches of the regime’s plainclothes mercenaries with a Bruce Lee-style high kick.

The very basic right of any human being - the right to protect one’s own life - is now a rule vastly acknowledged by the Iranian people. If you punch, you will get kicked. If you lift a baton, a flowerpot will descend upon your head from the balcony. This retaliatory policy has stunned the regime’s repressive forces and instilled fear in the hearts of mercenaries, rendering their authority and the Islamic Republic’s historically brutish force a bit ineffective.

The sanctification of struggle has been replaced by the will for triumph. Anger has substituted grief. Crying over the death of comrades has given way to trying to achieve the goal for which they died. Students at universities now bravely confront the regime’s henchmen and shout, “Death to the Dictator!” When their comrades at Sharif (Aryamehr) University of Technology in Tehran are brutalized by the Islamic Republic’s mercenaries, students from universities around the country protest. Even high school students have joined the movement.

International Attention

During the November 2019 protests, the regime shut down the internet and embarked on a mission to slaughter the people. In the West, this massacre was hardly covered in the media, as if it was not happening. No Western celebrity uttered a word. The Iranian people’s need for the internet became a paragraph in the annual reports of Western think tanks. The hacker group Anonymous was not aware of the atrocity unfolding in Iran. The tweets asking Elon Musk to help get internet for Iran were probably never read by him. President Donald Trump and his foreign policy team expressed verbal support for the people. The silence from the rest of the politicians was deafening. To this day, US Democrats know little to nothing about what was dubbed as Iran’s “Bloody November.” They conveniently ignored the tragedy because, Heaven forbids, they would find themselves on the same side with Trump.

Now, Anonymous has unleashed its fury on the Islamic Republic. Elon Musk agreed to activate Starlink for Iran. Almost immediately, the US Government issued the license for him to proceed. All this is not perfect and has limitations, but it is a ray of hope for the Iranian people that the world is hearing them. Indeed, they have found their own methods to circumvent the regime’s internet shutdown. In the diaspora, Iranians from around the world have taken to social media and to the streets to express solidarity with their compatriots. In Toronto alone on October 1, 2022, an estimated 50,000 people rallied in protest to the Islamic Republic. Hundreds of thousands more joined these rallies in the US, Europe, Asia, and Oceania.

Western celebrities on social media condemned the brutal murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by regime’s mercenaries for “inadequate hijab.” Her name became a codeword for women-inspired protests. Artists, athletes, and other celebrities began competing in praising the bravery of Iranian women and men. Politicians in the West, one-by-one began making official statements in support of the uprising.

A woman burning her hijab headscarf in Lahijan, a provincial town, September 2022

US Democrats who were at best lukewarm towards previous protests and flagrant human rights violations in Iran, have announced solidarity with the Iranian people, especially women. Even the progressive Democrats who are influenced by the Islamic Republic’s lobby found themselves in the awkward position of having to voice a semblance of support. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who is an advocate of appeasing the oppressive regime in Iran, acknowledges in an interview with CNN that “this time is different.”

Most astonishing of all was Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, admitting that the US, during Barack Obama’s presidency, made a miscalculation by not supporting the Iranian people during the 2009 uprising.

Unity

During the 2009 uprising, the streets of Tehran and a few other Iranian metropolitans saw an enormous turnout of people. In November 2019, there were protests everywhere except for Tehran, apart from some suburbs and peripheral townships. This time the heart of Tehran is ablaze. Affluent neighborhoods in Tehran are packed. Simultaneously, there are large demonstrations in other urban and rural areas on Iran. This has created a conundrum in transposition for the regime’s mercenaries and repressive forces. The middle class, which was silent in November 2019 and the winter of 2020, finally united with the rest of society. It is indeed a national uprising.

Artificial ethnic divisions, likely created by the regime itself or by fringe ultranationalist “opposition” groups outside Iran, were blurred. A nation rose in reaction to the slaying of a young Kurdish Iranian woman. In Tehran, people shouted "Kordestan, Kordestan, the eye and light of Iran.” Women of Tabriz shouted, "Azarbaijan is awake, it stands with Kordestan.” Everywhere else in Iran they chanted, "I will kill he who murdered my sister.” After the Islamic Revolutionary Guards massacred more than 40 Sunni compatriots in Sistan and Baluchistan province, people in the Shiite religious center Mashhad shouted, “Mashhad, Zahedan, my life is for Iran.”

Iranian opposition groups of various political persuasions, set their differences aside by and large. Those who did not join this movement with goodwill were rejected and repudiated.

The Islamic Republic’s unofficial lobby groups in the US and Canada that historically dominated the headlines with their “analyses” were also marginalized. Regime-affiliated journalists who largely wrote for English-language publications and spread disinformation in favor of the regime were ignored. Most interestingly, regime’s unofficial lobby in the US was explicitly told that they were not welcome in the October 1 rallies. In those rallies, placards were held by Iranians condemning these organizations and individuals.

Woman, Life, Freedom

The slogan of the Kurds who were fighting the Islamic State in Syria has become the slogan of the Iranians battling the Islamic State in Iran. “Woman, life, freedom” represents the paragon of liberty and social justice. Women, who were oppressed for 43 years following the Islamic Revolution, have become a symbol of human rights. Longing for a normal life and vitality, which the Iranian people were robbed of is celebrated. And freedom, it needs no elucidation.

You can call this movement an uprising, a rebellion, or a revolution. Whatever it is, it has a gratifying scent of victory. This time is different, in all respects.

The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of Iran International.

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