As the president of the Iranian regime addresses the United Nations in New York just days after the anniversary of an uprising sparked by a brutal murder by the regime, it is critical for the international community to consider its far-reaching implications to reflect on a critical chapter in the history of my country.
In the past year, Iran’s political terrain has changed profoundly.
The regime is in great panic over the threat of protests, while the organized opposition continues to gain momentum.
The world must recalibrate its approach to this unstable regime – rather than continuing to appease and support the murderers of the Iranian people.
The tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old victim of the regime’s “morality police,” sparked the September 2022 uprising.
The embers of anger quickly turned into a massive wave of protests against the entire theocracy, covering more than 220 cities in all 31 provinces.
The world witnessed the eruption of the Iranian people’s deep-rooted desire for freedom, with women emerging as the intrepid leaders of the uprising.
The clear rejection of both monarchy and theocracy reverberated through the protests with the loud cry: “Down with the oppressor, be it the Shah or the supreme leader.”
The leading opposition movement Mujahedin-e Khalq has released the identities of at least 750 protesters the regime has killed.
The demonstrators’ determination and courage were the culmination of a tireless struggle over the last four decades against a regime characterized by its brutality and oppression – a struggle in which women have always been at the forefront.
The reverberations of this uprising have exacerbated internal divisions at the highest levels and fueled palpable fear about the future and blood loss within the regime’s ranks.
The resurgence of mass protests, which by all logic would be even stronger and more powerful, is Tehran’s most feared nightmare.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei orchestrated the ascension of Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency with the aim of forging a more unified regime to prevent a repeat of the mass protests of 2018 and 2019.
The 2022 uprising destroyed even this semblance of regime cohesion and led to a reassessment of its strategy.
A recent so-called “cleansing wave” led by Raisi has led to the expulsion of dozens of university professors.
This is further evidence of the regime’s deep fears, particularly towards universities, which have historically served as bastions of vibrant resistance to dictators.
Now the regime has launched another major purge.
This internal purge has even reached the doorstep of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps brigade. General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, speaker of parliament and former close confidant of Khamenei.
The waves of popular discontent are irrefutable evidence of the regime’s failure to strengthen its internal cohesion and its inexorable inability to prevent the recurrence of uprisings.
So Khamenei increased the repression.
According to international human rights organizations, there have been more than 500 executions since January 2023.
While these tactics may increase intimidation in the short term, they will ultimately fuel dissent in the long term.
Resistance units in Iran are the driving force for organizing and mobilizing a passionate population.
At least 3,600 members of these units have disappeared, been arrested or killed.
Nevertheless, resistance units continue to spread throughout Iran.
These courageous youth operate in secret, constantly enduring the specter of imprisonment, torture and even death, cementing their role as the backbone of the Iranian protest movement.
The Iranian people’s desire goes far beyond cosmetic changes to dress codes.
Their ultimate goal is nothing less than to overthrow the oppressive regime and establish a true democratic republic by throwing off the shackles of both the Shah’s dictatorship and the theocratic rule of the mullahs.
Democratic change in Iran is no longer a matter of conjecture; it has become an inescapable reality.
The people’s unyielding determination, coupled with growing unrest within the regime, is making the status quo untenable.
A decisive and firm Western policy towards the Iranian regime can no longer be a mere exercise in prudence; it has become a commandment.
Tehran’s theocracy is at its weakest. There has never been a greater need for appeasement and diplomatic maneuvering – which is unfortunately the case.
Unlocking billions of dollars of Iranian people’s funds and handing them over to the regime is a gift to Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards for oppression, war and terrorism.
The international community has a moral obligation to stand with the Iranian people, who have made enormous sacrifices in their tireless pursuit of freedom.
We are not asking for help in overthrowing the regime. We simply call on Western governments to stop providing aid to these murderers.
Then we can build a peaceful future based on the ideals of a secular, democratic and nuclear-weapon-free republic.
Maryam Rajavi is the elected president of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran.