Iran: Violence against demonstrators is increasing – politics
The shutters of the shops in the Grand Bazaar in Tehran remained closed last weekend. Saturday is the start of the week in Iran, from early in the morning people usually crowd the ten-kilometer-long market, they shop for carpets, towels, brightly colored goods from China, spices, nuts. But videos from social networks only show these days isolated people hurrying through empty streets. Now one might think that the bazaars, as the wealthy traders’ guild is called, are concerned that their businesses will be damaged in view of the protests.
But observers see the closure as a rare expression of solidarity with the demonstrators, who have been taking to the streets for four weeks now. The protests had followed the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini started in mid-September. The political analyst and head of the political consultancy Orient Matters in Berlin, David Ramin Jalilvand, sees the reaction of the bazaars to the wave of protests as symbolically important above all: “The bazaars play a major role in the self-image of the Islamic Republic, they were once very influential, joined forces with the Islamists in the 1979 revolution and contributed to their success.”
Before the Islamic Revolution, traders felt economically marginalized by the Shah’s industrialization ambitions. However, as these have continued under the Islamic Republic, their power and influence has continued to decline. “Today they don’t play such a big role in the country’s economy,” says Jalilvand. Nevertheless, their reaction is not insignificant for the regime, because ideologically, the Bazaris are traditionally more conservative and are close to the clerics. However, their support is not as relevant to the situation in the country as it was in the 1960s and 1970s.
On the other hand, the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s elite force, founded in 1979 as a pillar of the Ayatollah system, are very present in all areas of the Iranian economy. “It could be really dangerous for the Islamic Republic in its current form if there were a coup from the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards,” believes Jalilvand. The result could be a military dictatorship with the prospect of a few more personal freedoms than before – but the commercial interests of the Guards and thus the economic problems of large parts of the population would then remain.
So far, there has been no political vision that the majority could rally behind
However, nothing indicates that. Instead, everything is being tried politically to downplay the nationwide protests. At the weekend, the Iranian leadership met for a crisis meeting. Earlier, ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi was given the middle finger by students at Tehran’s Al-Sahra Women’s University and received chants such as “Death to the Oppressor”. Raisi, on the other hand, once again blamed foreign forces for the recent demonstrations. Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi even declared the protests over and announced even tougher action against demonstrators. According to human rights organizations, more than 130 people have been killed and many more injured.
What is still missing is a political vision that the majority of Iranians could rally behind, says Jalilvand: “So far they have been united in their rejection of the current situation and are convinced that the system of the Islamic Republic can no longer be reformed , both the people of Iran and those in the diaspora.” However, the slogan “Women, life, freedom” has already sparked a debate in Iran, the expert observes: “People are discussing what the future might look like. They discuss fundamental political questions as well as specific concerns, such as social justice or the role of the state in the economy.”
A real game changer would be the death of the spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces and already 83 years old. He has been suffering from prostate cancer for years. A group called “Justice Ali” targeted him on Saturday night. She managed to hack the live televised evening news on state television, and blinded Ali Khamenei, who was on fire with a target on his head, along with photos of Mahsa Amini and three other women killed in recent protests. In addition, the calls “Join in and rise up” and “The blood of our youth is dripping from your hands”, only for a few seconds, but at prime time. The newsreader has to swallow afterwards.