Summary: This assessment from inside Iran during the uprising has just reached us. For this author’s earlier assessment, also published by us, see “Is Iran Moving Toward a Real Revolution” — Editors
From inside Iran — After five days of unrest, things have become clearer. My analysis follows:
- The protests expanded horizontally, covering most cities in northern, southern, and western parts of Iran. Small cities and places farther from the center, which before this movement were government strongholds, are rioting. It was amazing to see how large numbers of people in small cities of western Iran, who were not active in political crises in the past, came into the streets. In these cities the time between peaceful street protest to taking over the government centers and putting them on fire was very short. Part of the population — many of them members of ethnic minorities — in small cities in the western regions, from Lorestan and Khuzestan and certain cities east and west of Azerbaijan up to Kurdistan, joined in the protest. The creativity of the people of these areas took different forms, which gives every indication of a solid spirit of resistance. But in the eastern part of the country, except for Khorasan and some cities in Sistan, there is silence. More traditional areas that are supportive of the government, such as Kerman and Yazd, are relatively quiet. In Tehran, the capital city, despite the repeated emergence of some small demonstrations in the city center, they are merely watching this battle. Tehran is absolutely not in the forefront.
- There are huge differences in the level of resistance of the popular movement: From nighttime battles and massive demonstrations to daytime actions like issuing demands and sit-ins, to attacks on government centers and on at least one occasion, taking over part of a city (Izeh). There is animosity over the different level of protests in different regions, and this gap is increasing. This discontent also shows itself at another level. In some areas, few people are involved, while the participation of different layers of people in other areas seems to be continually changing, without paying attention to the movement’s increasing levels of participation in other areas.
- This increasing disconnect manifests itself another way. While the size of the movement has not reached its potential in some areas, other areas are peaking. A lot of people in big cities, such as Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, and Shiraz have not decided to join this fight, but in other cities we see that the revolt is ready become a revolution. This disconnect also shows itself in the level of consciousness and determination of different layers of people, depending on the size of the city and the level of its revolutionary spirit.
- The unsupportive attitude of the Reformists towards this movement and their separating themselves from it, especially in Tehran, or their condemnation of popular violence while keeping silent about the brutal attacks of the police on the people, and even Reformists supporting the crackdown in other big cities, has created a divide in the movement that increases by the day. It seems that Reformists are unwilling to take part in this revolt in any form and are completely defending the system against a popular uprising. And it also seems that people in the current movement have no desire to invite the Reformists to join the movement and that they have from the beginning separated themselves from the Reformists. This separation is more visible in Tehran. Workers, students and youth continue their daily battle in the streets, with Reformists spending the day as usual in their office or in their cultural, publishing, or scientific activity.
- Regardless of the Reformists, who constitute an important and sizeable political force, the current movement is not trying to increase or expand its influence beyond various poor and working-class areas of the country. Because of the separation of the working class in big cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Tabriz from this movement, it limits the capacity of those its vanguard to confront the government.
- The major weakness of this movement is its failure to put forward a concrete and specific demand that would unite its different components in different cities. This has given rise to different and sometimes conflicting demands. Demands concerning hunger and for economic improvement, for overthrowing the government, and for democratic institutions are all there.
- The government cannot find or give any structural solution to these problems, not even taking back its economic austerity plan, or promising to bring corrupt government officials to justice. It can only offer minor things like bringing the down the price of certain food items like eggs, while it is also quite ready to use its iron fist against the people. It appears that after the initial shock brought about by the revolt, they are just trying to arrest and imprison students and political activists, in an attempt to limit the expansion of this movement to other cities.
- As of now, it is hard to determine the future of this movement. But one thing is clear: The inability of the government to resolve these contradictions has hidden the weakness of this new oppositional movement, which lacks a structured and coordinated plan to achieve its goal. But soon people will know that the king is naked and that a policy of repression alone will not work.