This explosion of Iranian society is not an overnight phenomenon

Par Behzad Naziri

Behzad Naziri, a former journalist, he is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He spoke on April 26, 2023 during a conference at the initiative of the European Strategic Intelligence And Security Center (ESISC) at the Press Club of Brussels Europe. Through his personal experience, he describes the trajectory of a regime that is in danger in the face of a general protest led by an organized resistance. He also denounces the harmful effects of a pseudo-opposition. He answers the question of this colloquium: "After seven months of uprising, is the mullahs' regime threatened? »

I will answer the question of this colloquium from the inside of my country. Quite simply, the answer to this question, seven months of uprising, is the mullahs' regime threatened? Yes, it is threatened. The threat is existential, ie it is threatened with overthrow by the Iranians. It's not me who answers this question, it's the Iranian street who answers. The street replies that it is the fatal year. There is a well-known slogan that hits home. Just watch a few videos on social networks. In Persian it rhymes well: "Emsâl sâlé khouné, seyed Ali Sarnéguouné". Which means: This is the year of the blood, Seyed Ali will be overthrown there". Seyed Ali is the name and first name of Khamenei, from the regime's guide. The Iranian year begins with the vernal equinox on March 21. So we are barely a month away from our beginning of the Iranian year, Nowruz.

When people say "the year of blood", it means that a people who have demonstrated these seven months that they are not afraid of this terrible, bloody repression. We are at 750 dead, including more than 60 children. We are at 30,000 arrests. The head of the judiciary recently said that the regime has pardoned 22,000 of those arrested. You can imagine that if they pardoned 22,000, how many did they keep in jail?! We, through the Iranian Resistance network, have announced more than 750 deaths and 30,000 arrests, including 3,626 people, PMOI sympathizers, who are either arrested, therefore under torture today, or disappeared. The parents have no trace of their children.

A personal experience of the mullahs' dictatorship and its prisons

It's true that I've been in exile for a few decades, but I've never broken ties with the interior of my country. I have experienced and seen this interior, I have experienced it both from inside prisons, I have experienced it as a journalist, I have worked at Agence France Presse in Tehran for many missions of all kinds, including interviews with the current supreme guide who, at the time, was the president of the mullahs, but also more or less risky missions. In any case, as an AFP journalist, I helped French-speaking journalists, not necessarily French, but Belgian, Swiss... to better understand this repression that took hold in Iran after the fall of the Shah, because we are in the early 80s. It got me arrested after my sister was executed. My sister was also a journalist on Iranian television, a professional. She was a painter, artist, musician, executed at the age of 24, because the regime did not want militant journalists, especially in a place like the official radio and television. So, a few days later, it was my turn sentenced to eight years in prison and I went through Evin prison.

It's a name you know well. This Evin prison, I saw it both from the side of the stage, from the window and then from the side, behind the curtains, because I visited it with both a team from TF1 and the AFP, because it was a time when there was a lot of information about the terrible things happening in Evin in terms of execution and torture. The regime wanted to tell journalists, particularly French ones, that there was nothing, that it was opposition propaganda. We visited the prison of Evin, rather a kind of showcase. We were shown like it was a college dorm. A few months later, I was arrested by the Pasdarans and I went back to the same Evin prison, but this time it was on the other side of the curtain, where I was tortured. I have known things that I cannot tell you here. I was sentenced to eight years in prison. I spent three years in Evin and Ghezelhessar prisons, not far from Tehran. After my escape, it was my father who was arrested as a hostage and since my sentence was eight years in prison, they shared the imprisonment. They said "The son has done three years, there are five years left, the father will do the rest." 

20,000 political executions

Being a hostage in Evin is not something exceptional and neither is the story of my family something exceptional. This is something that has happened to tens of thousands of Iranian families. We are, after 40 years, at an estimated 120,000 political executions in the ranks of the opposition and mainly of the People's Mojahedin of Iran, according of course also to UN experts, according to reports by Amnesty International . This is to tell you that I don't want to tell you history, but talk about current events, because what I have just told you has features in this current events. For example, in these massacres of political prisoners in Iran, there is a name that has since surfaced in the investigations of the UN, or of Amnesty International, it is the name of Ibrahim Raïsi. However, it so happens that Ebrahim Raïsi, today, is at the head of the Iranian executive, the one who was a member of the death commission, appointed by Khomeini to decide, in the space of a few months, to the execution of 30,000 political prisoners, with a yes or a no. Do you belong to the PMOI or not? So "yes", it was death. "No", it was still other processes, of course, before arriving at deciding on the fate of the person. But this Ebrahim Raïssi was a prosecutor at the time. Today, he is the one who is designated, I say it well designated, because there is no universal suffrage (worthy of the name) in Iran, by the supreme guide to be the president of the Republic mullahs. Like its Minister of the Interior, Ahmad Vahidi, who is on the notorious red list of Interpol, this international arrest warrant for having been implicated in terrorist attacks, as well as prominent members of the opposition like Kazem Rajavi than the Amia bombing in Buenos Aires, the story of which you know, with more than 85 dead, 300 injured. In all these crimes, the current interior minister of the mullahs' regime was directly implicated.

We are not talking about history, we are talking about current events. It is important to make this link between this Iranian news and the history of these 40 years, because sometimes, looking at the last seven months, we speak as if this explosion of Iranian society was a matter of one day. , as if looking at the surface of the water with its waves and not seeing the depths, the deep reasons.

The Root Causes of the Iranian Revolution

This is why I think that to better understand this current Iranian situation, it is necessary to make the share of what one can call, the immediate causes and the deep causes. The immediate causes, of course, are what you all know through the media, the cruel death of a young Kurd for wearing the veil incorrectly. This is the price of gasoline multiplied by three in November 2019, 1500 deaths in the space of a few days. It's the rise in the prices of eggs and bread in December and January 2018. All of these were the immediate causes.

But I think that to understand, it is better to linger a little on what we can call the deep causes, because the causes which gave rise to this insurrectionary situation, persist beyond seven months. There are two driving forces. There is a part, this is what Gérard Verspierre has just explained brilliantly and in detail, the whole aspect of economic and social causes. I won't come back to that.

But there is also what can be called resistance activity in Iran. By this I mean that this explosive situation that Iran is experiencing today has a depth in Iranian society which is explained by the fact that during these 40 years, the action of the resistance has not ceased, n didn't stop.

40 years of resistance

It suffices to go into the registers, it suffices to go and see nothing but the 30,000 prisoners executed in 1988, who after 30 years have been recognized as a crime against humanity, a genocide. It is not as publicized as what happened in Rwanda or Srebrenica, but it is a massacre that took place by people who are today the tenors of the current Iranian regime. I would like to dwell mainly on the last four or five years to explain this recent explosive situation.

To the factor that Gérard Vespierre has just explained on the social economic level, I would also like to add the effect of the Covid in Iran, because we must not forget that Iran was an exception. You should not compare Khamenei's method of dealing with Covid plagues in Iran to what has been called the Chinese method or the Finnish method or the American method. But no, that was the method of the Iranian mullahs. It was about half a million deaths caused by a Khamenei who very clearly banned American and British vaccines and in a few places also French to say it was Haram. Of course, this is another form of mass murder. You have been told about the massive killings of the population in the prisons, but there are also massive killings in this way that the regime imposed to curb the insurrectionary situation.

And yet this insurrectional situation has nevertheless arisen from the slightest spark. It is all of these factors, including the effect of Covid in recent years, that has made the Iranian resistance, particularly the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which is the most organized component, think about reflect on the formation of resistance units that would be capable of organizing, leading and directing this popular anger.

It is a mistake to believe what has happened in Iran in recent months is completely spontaneous

It would be an error of analysis and an error that will be demonstrated sooner or later to believe that everything that has happened in Iran for the past seven, eight months has been something completely spontaneous. I'm not saying that everything was organised, but I am actually saying that there was an organization on the ground. This can be seen through the coordination of slogans and the different forms that resistance actions take. Besides, it is enough to also see the reactions of the mullahs' regime, the confidential reports of the Iranian intelligence services, particularly the Ministry of Intelligence. We can read in these reports for example, on the events of 2019, when the price of gasoline is multiplied by three, about 200 cities are set ablaze in the space of three days. According to these reports, 60% of the street actions were carried out by units of what the regime calls the "monafeghine" (Hyppocrites), an expression of power to designate the People's Mojahedin of Iran.

Iran also experienced an insurgency situation in 2017, 2018. February 2018, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Chamkhani, who is still in this post today, said that these "Monafeghines" (the MEK ), they will see what they will see for the troubles they have fomented in Iran. Some time later you notice the existence q in Villepinte on June 30, 2018, of this planned bomb attack which particularly targeted the elected president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Maryam Rajavi, an attack which wanted to cause carnage in a large gathering of tens of thousands of people with hundreds of personalities from all over the world, it was in a way the response of the mullahs' intelligence services to what had happened in Iran in winter 2018. We cannot be clearer.

Fortunately the attack was foiled, but the fact is there, it was an accredited diplomat who committed it and who is still in prison in Antwerp, you know the details. I won't come back to this, but as far as this news of the last seven months is concerned, it is enough to go and see the speeches of the imams of Friday prayers. You know that in Iran, the imams of Friday prayers who preach across the whole country are, in a way, Khamenei's spokespersons. They warn families against the intrusion and presence of the People's Mojahedin in the computers of their young people in the house. That is, they say "beware of social media", all this social media filtering. They say "beware, we didn't let them in through the door. They are entering your home, your homes, through social networks and through your children's computers. Just look at the figures announced by the regime regarding the percentage of young people arrested during these insurrections who are part of the families, precisely, of people from the regime.

The development of resistance units

I pass quickly, of course, we can detail, but there is a development of these units. Just make a comparison with the part that was made public between June 2021, where there are a thousand videos that we were able to make public about the presence of these networks in Iran, compared to June 2022, where it was 5,000 videos. So 5,000 videos from 5,000 distinct points of Iran geographically spread across the country, which have taken action, kind of like a few images you've seen briefly, but the videos are quite accessible on social media and daily shown on televisions linked to the Iranian resistance.

For the development of these indoor resistance activities which are not very simple activities like what you have just seen, setting fire to an effigy of Khamenei which is 10 meters high on a large building in the heart of the capital . That's something that has an effect to break the terror. But it also goes as far as, for example, intercepting for ten seconds the images of the national television of the Iranian State. Ten seconds is a lot of time, but it matters when it comes to the most secure institution. It's the mullahs' state television and they said it's not hackers, because to do that you have to have someone inside the system. Or intercept 5,000 video cameras from the city hall of Tehran the capital, which are used to instead terrorize and track the demonstrators.

The fate of our people will not be played in Washington, Paris or Brussels, but in Iran

All that to say that the regime feels a real threat. This threat, apart from the geopolitical, economic and social aspects, is a threat that comes from the Iranian street, that comes from the field, because the fate of our people will not be decided either in Washington or in Paris, not in Brussels, but in Iran, inside the country. Moreover, it is no coincidence that during these seven months and in parallel to these seven months, you are looking at the actions, I would say, a little here and there, of opposition contenders. Because when I say opposition, I mean these 40 years of opposition to the mullahs' regime. I'm not just talking about those few months.

Ni Shah, Ni Mullah – The Alternative

It is not very serious for the Iranian of the Interior when there is, for example among the suitors a son of the Shah who walks around without being clear on the heritage of the dictatorship of his father. The popular slogan inside is very clear, "neither Shah nor Mullahs". We really want the overthrow of the mullahs' regime, but we are not nostalgic for all that of the Shah's dictatorship, which also experienced its share of executions and torture. It is not only by proclaiming oneself an alternative that one becomes an alternative to the current regime with the capabilities of a state based in Tehran. To claim an alternative, you must first have a structure, what Frédéric Encel calls a revolutionary corpus in the language of experts. You have to have a leader, you have to have a program. That's how you qualify for a program. You must have an alternative that is forged in this fight with the mullahs during these 40 years, with trials that I have just told you enough about. An alternative cannot suddenly emerge from the shadows.

An alternative must emerge from these 40 years of struggle against the religious dictatorship. Iranian society is in turmoil, but we must see that this resistance is a tree with roots in the depths of society which have been watered for 40 years by the blood of tens of thousands of Iranians, including more recently, these young girls, these young women. This is the moment for the Iranians and we believe that this year is the year that is beginning at this moment for the people to reap the fruits of all these sacrifices, of all these 40-year ordeals. A secular and democratic Republic will not only make the Iranians happy, it will make the whole world happy, particularly the peoples of the Middle East, the Maghreb peoples who suffer from this extremism in the name of Islam. It is with this well-founded hope that I would like to end this speech.