Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei attending a public ceremony

Ali Khamenei's Challenging Year

Saturday, 03/23/2024

The past year was a tough one for all Iranians: 44% official inflation rate, tens of millions living in poverty, quadrupling of executions in just four years, and alarming levels of unemployment.

Adding to the nation's woes in the Iranian year that ended on March 20, the emigration of nurses and specialist doctors, leaving critical positions unfilled, coupled with a significant brain drain and substantial capital outflow, further dampened the outlook for the current year, which commenced on March 20.

However, the trials of the past year were not confined to the Iranian people alone. The regime, particularly under the leadership of Ali Khamenei, faced an arduous and disheartening period. This challenge can be delineated into five distinct aspects: regional developments, shifts in political dynamics and institutions, revelations, the plight of the impoverished, and the resilience of women's resistance.

Hamas on the verge of destruction

Following the brutal attack on October 7th, Ali Khamenei expressed his support by enthusiastically stating that he would honor Hamas fighters. However, the publication of videos depicting Hamas's atrocities, including rape, burning, and the killing of children, as well as the tragic deaths of over 200 young people at a music festival, deeply shook the international community. Consequently, Israel felt compelled to take control of Gaza. This attack has inflicted significant damage on Hamas and its infrastructure, with repercussions still unfolding.

Destruction in Gaza after Israel's retaliatory invasion

The weakening of Hamas's military capabilities undermines one of Khamenei's key threats against Israel's existence. Much of this damage has already been done, and Ali Khamenei is quietly witnessing the setbacks to his "resistance axis."

Failed manipulated elections

The heavy-handed manipulation of the 2024 parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, coupled with Reformists’ refusal to vote, resulted in a significant decrease in voter turnout, dealing yet another blow to Khamenei’s regime. Even a sizable portion of traditionalist Islamist forces opted out of the electoral process, leading to a stark decline in voter participation, particularly in major cities, where turnout plummeted to roughly one-third of eligible voters. The event marked the worst elections in the Islamic Republic’s 45-year history.

No member of the upcoming parliament (Majles) or Assembly of Experts can rightfully claim to represent the people, when some got elected with less than 5 percent of total eligible votes. The election results were so disappointing that there was a four-day silence before they were acknowledged, followed by a baseless characterization of the outcome as an "epic victory."

Clerics unmasked

Shia clerics have long operated in secrecy, avoiding transparency in their actions and dealings. They withhold information from the public for two main reasons: to cultivate an aura of mystery that reinforces their perceived sanctity and to evade accountability for the privileges, corruption, and crimes committed by members of their institution against the vulnerable populace. However, a series of judicial document hacks, government correspondence leaks, and revelations of corruption have shattered Khamenei's once tightly controlled image.

In recent years, Khamenei's governing approach, which allows his agents to exploit resources in exchange for loyalty, has become apparent to the public. Even the most devout segments of society no longer buy into the spectacle of him walking among the tombs of Shia imams, bathed in divine light, as portrayed on IRIB TV stations. The year concluded with the exposure of corruption involving one of his close associates, Kazem Siddiqi.

Young Iranian women without hijab challenge the regime. Writing on the sand says, "Woman, Life, Freedom"

Persistent women torment Khamenei

Khamenei is characterized by his vindictive nature, relentlessly pursuing his adversaries even to their graves and showing little regard for anyone's fundamental right to self-expression.

In March 2022, Khamenei declared, “The hijab is not only a religious and legal obligation but also a moral and political one.” However, throughout the year, millions of Iranian women boldly flouted this decree in the streets, hospitals, banks, official gatherings, and entertainment venues, casting aside his words with defiance.

For Khamenei, who, until two years ago, ruthlessly enforced the hijab, violently apprehending women for showing even a glimpse of their hair and subjecting them to humiliation, torture, and fines, it is now deeply unsettling to witness this widespread disobedience. Firing teachers or doctors or targeting mothers with infants does little to quell the turmoil within him. At night, he is haunted by nightmares of women freely enjoying the beach in bikinis or riding bicycles through the streets and markets in tank tops and shorts."

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