Iran’s nationwide uprising continues despite its ups and down. The clerical system’s demise no longer seems a dream but a reachable goal. More than anyone else, the Ayatollahs in Tehran take this threat seriously, therefore trying to detract the uprising from its main course.
Ruhollah Khomeini and his network of clerics and religious fanatics hijacked Iran’s 1979 anti-monarchic revolution while giving many promises to a population yearning for democracy and freedom. Without any real solution, mullahs soon realized that Iran’s vibrant society and the growing democratic opposition were serious challenges to their backward rule. So, the regime began its killing spree. Although Tehran has not shied away from any crimes against humanity to control society, it has also tried to outflank the democratic opposition through demonization and fabricated “alternatives.”
Khomeini controlled Iran’s society with an Iron fist and managed the regime’s infightings by using his religious hegemony. Once he died, the new Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and the entire system needed a method to control society and cope with the international community by trying to imply that after Khomeini’s death, the path of reformism has opened. For decades, Tehran used the so-called “reformist” faction to deceive Western powers, and Iranian society, to chase the myth of moderation.
Sadly, world powers fell for the smiles of President Mohammad Khatami and accepted Tehran’s terms, including the terrorist designation of its main opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK). This unjust designation was later revoked after a long legal battle by the Iranian opposition. Yet, the regime used the MEK’s blacklisting to justify its terrorist activities and crimes against dissidents inside Iran and abroad.
Despite witnessing how their appeasement policy allowed Tehran to later advance its nuclear program under the so-called hardliner president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Western powers continued their wrong approach by entering a series of negotiations with the mullahs. Those negotiations finally resulted in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal that western democracies desperately still try to revive despite Tehran’s provocative actions.
For the Iranian people and the regime, the mirage of moderation faded during the major Iran uprising in 2018, when people chanted, “Reformists, hardliners, the game is over.” Since then, Tehran’s new tactic is to promote Reza Pahlavi, the son of the Shah.
On June 26, 2018, the state-run Jomhuri-e Eslami newspaper acknowledged how the regime’s agents “have become bold enough to chant ‘Bless the soul of Reza Shah’ [Reza Pahlavi’s grandfather] while being escorted by the security forces. These [agents] are the same participating in the Friday Prayers and other state-staged rallies.”
Reza Pahlavi later acknowledged his bilateral contact with the terrorist Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its paramilitary Basij forces. He has explicitly said he “counts” on them to gain power in Iran. While the IRGC forces keep brutalizing and killing Iranians, Pahlavi and his entourage speak of civil disobedience instead of echoing the Iranian people’s demand from the world community to recognize their right to self-defense.
Yet, Reza Pahlavi and some other so-called “opposition figures,” including Masih Alinejad, lose no time to slander the MEK. This is another characteristic Reza Pahlavi, Alinejad, and their entire ilk share with Iran’s ruling theocracy. What else should be expected from a man who is in bilateral contact with the IRGC and a woman whose political affiliation remains in limbo?
Masoumeh Alinejad Qomi-Kolai, known by her stage name Masih Alinejad, was a reporter for several “reformist” state-run outlets. She rose to fame when members of parliament ousted her from the Majlis (parliament) in 2005 when she revealed the number of bonuses the MPs had received. Videos of her praising Khatami and other regime officials are still present. Alinejad left Iran in 2009 and, ever since, has tried to show herself as an activist who keeps adjusting her position to the situation. She first started by limiting Iranian women’s demand for the abolishment of the mandatory veil. She consistently insisted on the need to negotiate with the regime and campaigned to encourage Iranians to vote in the regime’s sham elections. Now she had become a fierce activist for regime change when the mullahs’ downfall emerged on the horizon. Despite her deafening cries of “democracy, women’s rights, and secularism,” Alinejad has allied with Reza Pahlavi, who advocates for the return of the deposed monarchy and limits his views of women’s rights to “being the father of three girls.”
Reza Pahlavi and his entourage are indeed slowing down the process of the revolution in the making in Iran by trying to imply that Iranians should either choose between the current regime or the return of the Pahlavi dictatorship or that if the people’s demands are limited to some basic needs. Their “us or chaos” scenario, coupled with their anti-MEK rhetoric, only spreads the message of despair among risen Iranians and detracts the uprising from its main course, also allowing world powers to continue appeasing Tehran.
For their part, Iranian people have rejected this scenario by chanting slogans such as “Death to the oppressor, be it Shah or the [Supreme] Leader.” The ball is now in the court of western democracies. They should hear the real voice of Iranians, who want a pluralistic and secular republic.