BEHIND THE IRAN HEADLINES Series, August 28, 2023, Alireza Jafarzadeh, NCRI-US Deputy Director
The 2022 Iranian uprising marked an unprecedented turning point in the nation’s struggle for liberty. Initially sparked by the tragic death of Mahsa (Gina) Amini, the protests quickly transcended issues like the morality police and mandatory hijab to challenge Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s authoritarian rule.
Over 2,300 protests erupted across Iran in the first three months, with universities and trade unions adding their voices through strikes and sit-ins.
Compared to previous uprisings, which were quickly suppressed or lasted only days, the 2022 protests stand out both in duration and scope. This suggests a shifting pattern where the core issues remain unresolved, and the regime’s grip on power is increasingly challenged. The roots of recent uprisings can be traced back to 1981 when then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini brutally suppressed the peaceful protests organized by Iran’s main opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or the MEK.
The unprecedented backlash against the regime’s repressive forces and waning internal support has made it increasingly challenging for Khamenei to suppress dissent. State media now openly express concern over another uprising, capturing public sentiment. Since last year, the demand for regime change has only intensified. Khamenei has been the focal point of dissent. Economically and socially repressed sectors of the society, as well as all nationalities across Iran, are now openly revolting against the entirety of the regime, seeking its overthrow. Iranians’ slogans in the uprising clearly show their revolution’s core direction and its pro-democracy nature.
From Tehran to Tabriz, from Sistan and Baluchistan to Kurdistan, and from Gilan to Khuzestan, Iranians have been chanting “Down with Khamenei” and “Down with the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Supreme Leader (Khamenei), clearly showing that the era for any form of dictatorship is over. Now is the time for the dawn of freedom.