All of the official statements coming out of Iran these days would lead you to believe that the Iranian people are angry at the United States over the killing of their beloved terrorist leader, Qassem Soleimani and supporting their government. If that’s the case, they clearly don’t do a very good job of showing it. Protests have been taking place in the streets of Tehran and around the country all weekend, continuing into today. And if the protesters are supposedly supporting the current regime, why are the Iranian police firing live ammunition and tear gas at them? (Associated Press)
Iranian police and security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Islamic Republic’s initial denial that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, online videos purported to show Monday.
There was no immediate report in Iranian state-run media on the incident near Azadi, or Freedom, Square in Tehran on Sunday night after a call went up for protests there. However, international rights groups already have called on Iran to allow people to protest peacefully as allowed by the country’s constitution.
“After successive national traumas in a short time period, people should be allowed to safely grieve and demand accountability,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Iranians shouldn’t have to risk their lives to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful assembly.”
This video, posted by a reporter from The Sun, shows the chaos enveloping the protest as shots are fired and tear gas canisters drive back the crowds.
If you listen carefully, you can hear one woman screaming “death to the dictator” in English, a clear indication that the protesters know the international media is paying attention. Another woman was dragged away with blood streaming from her leg where she had been shot. Other Iranians covered their faces with damp cloth in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the tear gas.
The Iranian government is denying that live ammunition was being used on their own people by the police. The woman with the bullet in her thigh apparently begs to differ. One woman interviewed in her home described being “ashamed” of her government for lying about the plane crash for three days until “other events” forced them to come clean.
I’ve seen some people on Twitter getting excited about this and asking if the moderates in Iran are finally fed up with their abusive regime and preparing to overthrow them. While that’s a lovely dream, let’s just say I’m not getting my hopes up. People have been talking about the Iranian moderates giving the boot to the Mullahs for most of my adult life but it never seems to happen. Unless and until the IRGC gets fed up with the situation and decides to turn on their masters (which would likely involve a civil war against the Quds Force), the people are unlikely to be able to dislodge the regime by force.
Honestly, I’m not even hopeful that Iran will take some sort of lesson away from this internal dissent and modify their behavior. They’ve got an iron grip on power in their country and powerful allies backing them in the form of Russia and China. They have no incentive to change their ways unless they feel a significant threat of losing control of the country.