Over the recent period, we have witnessed two public events in Iran, during which the people of Iran have raised their head and their voices in protest. It takes courage to do so under a regime, where if you raise your head there is a good chance it will be removed later.
As the people of Iran bid farewell to Rafsanjani, during the state funeral, opposition slogans were chanted and shouted. The opposition cries were in identification with Hossein Moussavi, the oppositionist who has been held under house arrest since 2011. Other bywords by the crowd were aimed against Russia, Iran’s ally in the continued massacre in Syria. The third oppositional motto expressed was calls for the release of hunger strikers in Iranian prisons. The nytimes in its coverage of this amazing feature, revealed several attempts by the Iranian authorities to drown out or conceal this popular unrest. They raised the volume of the loudspeakers and the state television airbrushed the protests. Theguardian called the outburst a “rare show of dissent”, the middleeasteye “anti-state protest” and euronews even used the word “rebel”.
The wide-spread flood of non-official participants to the funeral was in itself an expression of protest. Despite the fact that some articles tried to portray the popular mourning as a sign of unity, in support of the revolution (see for instance time article titled “to mourn a founding father of the Republic”), this is far from the truth. Just as the multitudes came out to mourn Ali Montazeri (see theguardian), and Montaheri (see telegraph) as a display of opposition, and just as they came out to honor the pop singer Morteza Pashei (see realiran) while declining the official request to mourn for Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani (see nytimes), they came to mourn Rafsanjani, who was perceived, in his later years, as a moderate and a reformer.
The multitude in Iran display their sympathy – and it is not with the regime.
An additional public display of dissent occurred recently. Public protests took place in support of Arash Sadeghi. As reported in the bbc, hundreds gathered and marched demanding Arash Sadeghi’s release, deploring the necessity of his life threatening hunger strike (for the release of his wife). An international twitter campaign was launched under the hashtag #saveArash, and social media picked up on this injustice. Amnesty International called the conviction “ludicrous” and the trial “farcical”.
Then, amazingly, as reported again in bbc, Arash’s wife, Ms Ebrahimi, was suddenly released from prison, and Arash could end his hunger strike. Proof was brought forth that the Iranian regime is vulnerable.
These two incidents highlight the fact that the gap between the regime and the people of Iran is momentous. Any media outlet outrageously describing the funeral as a display of unity or referring to the people of Iran as supportive of the regime, is grossly mistaken. Perhaps it is time that the international community side with the people and not with the regime.