I had the great pleasure to interview the scholar and activist, Dr. Reza Mohajer* on the ongoing reign of terror of the Iranian regime and what needs to change for an actual regime-change. Here are the three main-questions, that needed long overdue answers.
1) How could it happen, that the regime can celebrate their forty years reign of terror?
The revolution in 1979 was collaboration between all groups who sought freedom, social justice and independence. Khomeini hijacked the revolution and used that opportunity to establish his vision of a theocratic state. He killed thousands of activists from leftist, nationalist and other groups in the process. The end result was a Islamic regime based on extreme interpretations of sharia law. The Islamic regime benefited from the hostage crises and cultural revolution which they closed universities for a few years to islamicize universities. When Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1981 a war began which lasted for 8 years making it a great opportunity for the regime in Iran to oppress the opposition and establish its new theocratic framework. Because of the absence of political parties inside of Iran and strong opposition from the outside creating external pressure enabled the regime to establish the idea of reform as an alternative to change. They were able to control the society while reducing the demand for democracy for over two decades. Finally because of corruption, nepotism, authoritarian rules, suppression, economic problems and power of ICTs (information communication technologies) majority of people understand that reform is not answer because it will not allow for change to be possible. Iranian society believes that for there to be change the whole system of current regime must be toppled. For 40 years people fought for their rights as much they could. Massive social movements in Iran under this Theocratic regime, challenged it and showed people’s demand for change. There are three major social movements in recent history, the student movement in July 1999, Green Movement in 2009 and Anti poverty movement in December of 2017 to January 2018.
2) What needs to be different for a regime change?
Iran’s Contemporary history for change is based on social movements. Change has to happen with Iranian people. They need to be united for a an independent grassroots movement to demand regime change from across the country to unify all civil society so every social movement and NGO is included which share common goals based on non-violent principles and secular democracy. They must also demand international relations based on the nation’s interest and world peace.
3) Who would you like to see in charge in Iran?
What we need is the right system which has to be a secular democracy regime and respect human rights values. We want to have democratic regime run by people with free elections. Iranians want to have a democracy run by the people not by a person or group. It is an inter-generational dream starting from the 1905 constitutional revolution.
*Reza Mohajer is a scholar, who holds in PhD in political science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He wrote the book: “Live Generation: Iran`s 1999 Student Uprising that opened the Door for Secular Democracy” (New York; iUniverse, 2010) and is currently writting his new book.