Protests are continuing in Iran and are expanding, denouncing the killing of the Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, under torture inside a police station in the capital, Tehran, after her arrest under the pretext of violating hijab standards.
The killing of “Amini” sparked a wave of anger that was accompanied by massive demonstrations in many Iranian cities and provinces, where the manifestations of defiance became clear by the protesters despite the fact that a large number of them were killed and arrested. Tens of thousands of demonstrators raised slogans and chants against the Iranian authorities and Supreme Leader Ali. Khamenei, and women participated heavily in the protests, with many removing their headscarves, burning them, or cutting their hair during the demonstrations.
At the international level, thousands demonstrated in many cities, including London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and New York, in solidarity with the Iranian demonstrators, amid international condemnation by Germany, the United States, Britain, France, the European Union and the United Nations, and the Director of the Human Rights Organization in Iran, Mahmoud Amiri, called on the international community to take action. Urgent steps that would stop the killing and torture of the Iranian people.
In an exclusive interview with German researcher and politician Dastan Jassem, the Target media platform asked many questions about Western countries ignoring their support for the protests in Iran, and what are the repercussions of the success of the popular movement there on the Middle East.
The following is the full text of the interview conducted by Target media platform with the researcher and specialist in Kurdish affairs, democracy issues and security policies in Kurdistan, Dastan Jassim:
Are the popular protests that condemn the killing of a young Kurdish woman by Iran’s security forces, the beginning of a new Iranian spring?
It is unclear whether these protests will result in regime change, however, they surely are not only the biggest protests so far but also different on many other levels. They mobilize all parts of society, minorities like Kurds and Balochi people, women, queers, workers, the lower class in general, and especially young people. They are the majority of Iran’s population. Thus, only from a demographic perspective, we are dealing with a lot of demonstrators that are not easily manageable for the state. We also see that the regime is very overwhelmed and, in some areas, prisoner releases were announced, while in other areas security forces had to withdraw and it was even stated that the regime is involving their proxy forces from Lebanon for their help. In addition, Iran is currently undergoing an economic crisis.
While in a recent New York Times article this crisis was mentioned as a reason for the impending failure of the protests, reality does not prove such a correlation. Whether it is the Arab spring in Tunisia or Egypt, in all cases the great economic problems of the population encouraged their protest more than it impaired them. Finally, we have to observe that all protests a) call for the end of the system and b) do not align themselves with the old “alternatives” like the Monarchy or the Mujahedin e Khalq. That is a big step and all of this together renders these protests to be massive and unprecedented as well as potentially regime-changing.
Why do Western countries ignore the support of recent demonstrations in Iran despite the constant call for a confrontation with the threats that are enunciated by the Iranian regime?
Iran has long invested in creating a bloody network of sleeper cells that kill their enemies all across the world, which is the reason why anti-regime mobilization is extremely dangerous and why many people do not dare to speak up even here. A lot of Iranian-sponsored assassinations were not convicted to be linked to Iran during trials and that has bestowed them with a lot of leverage.
Furthermore, Iran uses a lot of soft power. Many academics, journalists, and other public figures indirectly support the regime and their arguments are increasingly reverberating in discussions, held by liberal intellectuals in the West.
If you read for example Khamenei’s last tweet about the protests, he argues that “the protests are not about the Hijab” and he blames Israel for them. That is a talking point arguably a lot of liberal voices would repeat as well. Iran has understood well to sell itself to the West for the sake of changing its image but a lot of people are seeing through this.
Does the women’s movement in Iran continue with its progressive social values and is it considered a turning point in the course of the history of human rights?
We now see that not only a female vanguard is leading this movement but also young students, school children, and young women from a minority background. Thus, we see that these women increasingly connect their grievances to a systemic analysis of all the things that oppress people in everyday life. This is why I think that this protest movement does not only constitute a turning point in Iran but also in the overall region where many protests, such as the Arab spring, were dominated by males and religious movements. After the Rojava revolution now the movement in Iran is setting a second precedent of a Middle Eastern uprising that is writing a different story and becoming increasingly fundamental.
What measures and steps are required for a change in the Iranian regime? What are the repercussions of the popular movement’s success on the Middle East in general and the areas that are currently under Iranian influence, such as Syria for example?
It is important to note that Iran cannot access its foreign assets and will be economically limited, which is currently happening. We see that Iran was suddenly able to access 8 billion dollars from its frozen assets in South Korea and there are rumors about the West has agreed with them to facilitate access to these assets for a prisoner exchange. As long as Iran can finance its forces in the country, its proxies, and its sleeper cells, it will be hard for the revolt to succeed and precipitate a change in the regime. However, we have to consider that in other countries with a huge military sector like Egypt, things also looked unpromising in the beginning. All probabilities aside, the attitude of those people that I talked to, is that no matter how high the perils are, no one wants to continue with the way things currently are.
So, the West cannot change that, they can only change the amount of blood that will be spilled until that change is going to be achieved.
In regards to other countries, such as Syria, there is a great effect of the Kurdish slogan „Jin, Jiyan, Azadi“, which connects all these movements and as the Kurds in Iran are gaining momentum, another Kobani moment will be created. All of Kurdistan is watching Jina Amini’s hometown Saqqez, along with other towns like Sine and Kermanshah or Bokan every night.
As for the people from Rojava, who are under heavy Turkish bombardment and great isolation, the perception of their common struggle that they are sharing with many others, is very motivating. However, there are also risks here. I have previously written on the issue of Iranian presence in Syria and with every cross-border war that Iran wages against its Kurdish parties, such as for the example during the events of last week in the city of Koye, an increasing source of instability for the AANES will be the case as Iran’s war is increasingly waged in areas that are bordering the SDF units, for example in Deir-er-Zoor.