The Iranian regime is racing toward the abyss

Le Monde Editorial

What future is there for a regime that kills its youth? The question keeps coming up, as blood has been flowing in Iran for more than two months now. The regime knows how to do repression. No Iranian man or woman doubts its determination to crush the voices that challenge it. But the tactic of fear no longer seems effective, so powerful does the current wave of anger seem.

The death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in Tehran on September 16, after she was arrested by the morality police for wearing the mandatory headscarf in a way that was deemed inappropriate, has topped a groundswell of resentment that has been building for decades – the resentment of an urban youth deprived of a horizon in a closed country, as well as that of mistreated ethnic minorities, be they Kurds or Baluchis.

In the face of this anger, Ali Khamenei’s regime immediately showed itself incapable of responding with anything besides the truncheon. How could it be otherwise when its sole concern for a long time has been to remain in power, regardless of the cost to its people? His determination to acquire nuclear weapons, despite his denials, at the cost of heavy international sanctions devastating to Iranian society is further evidence of his priorities.

The legitimacy conferred by the 1979 revolution, which ousted a reviled monarch, has long since dissolved, as has that derived from the religious principle of the velayat-e faqih – the “government of the learned” – embodied today by a leader in his twilight years who has never been recognized by his peers.

This Islamic Republic, which in the space of a few weeks has become the world’s third largest prison for the press, behind China and Burma, according to Reporters Without Borders, now relies solely on the repressive capacity of a power whose backbone is the elite corps of the Revolutionary Guards, with their stronghold on the economy and their militia, the Basij.

Enemies of Iran

This regime is no longer able to play on an appearance of pluralism between “reformers” and “conservatives” as it once did. The great wave of protest sparked by the most likely rigged results of the 2009 presidential election was led by a dignitary from the former camp, Mir Hossein Moussavi. Twelve years later, any illusion of the possibility of reformation has disappeared and demonstrators are chanting: “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

In keeping with a well-worn script, the two journalists who first published information about Mahsa Amini’s death, Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, have been accused of acting on behalf of the CIA.

After French President Emmanuel Macron ostensibly received Iranian dissidents at the Elysée Palace on November 10, France was also implicated and accused of stirring up unrest. Seven French nationals are currently detained in Iran, accused of espionage. With the lever of international sanctions already at its maximum, any form of solidarity expressed around the world with the demonstrators is immediately framed as a plot hatched by supposed enemies of Iran.

The increasingly indiscriminate violence against spontaneous protests that spring up at funerals, in schools, or in the Tehran subway, is a move taken from the same playbook. The aim is to incite demonstrations, in order to justify an even more ruthless repression – illustrated by the first death sentences handed down to protesters. It is racing toward the abyss, while the world is watches helplessly.