The Iranian Uprising and the crisis of the Opposition

The killing by Mahsa Amini sparked protests in Iran. (Photo by Shutterstock)

The gap between the Iranian government's performance and that of its political opponents is widening. The recent protests highlight the major differences between the two groups, writes Ahmad Abdel-Rahman.

The Iranian regime asserts that it has been able to control the popular protests in the street, or what it calls, riots. The protesters have sought to overthrow the ruling system and the religious order. They are striving for real and radical change, not only in the regime's views, but also in its composition.

Although the protests were quelled because the Iranian regime used all means of control in its armoury- prosecution, arrest, imprisonment and trial - thereby imposing calm and stability on society, it has not dismantled the sources of these protests, which could explode at any time.

Political activists, and opponents at home and abroad have declared their support for the protests, that erupted after the killing of Mahsa Amini. The protests expanded to become a cultural and political challenge to the regime, the ruling institution and the religious authority in Iran. The protesters have also questioned the validity of policies and the mechanisms that have been used by Iran's rulers over the past four decades to Islamise Iran's society.

The problems confronting the opposition

The protests reveal the depth of the differences between the Iranian regime and the demands of opposition groups in Iran – protests that erupted after the killing of Amini.

Each party in the opposition movement believes it is the legitimate leader, even though all opposition parties are working to eliminate Iran's ruling elite. The fact that the movement is not cohesive is a major obstacle to reaching a common discourse or vision on how to overthrow the regime and its cultural, political and repressive tactics.

The lack of cohesion between the opposition groups has benefited the regime. In fact, the difference between the disparate groups that make up the opposition seems to be deeper than the divide with the regime. Far from the reformists, the segment that formed the main nerve of the popular movement from the new generation of youth revealed similarities between it and the regime and its security and cultural apparatus.

Consequently, the opposition no longer threatens the regime. This was not the case in the early days of the movement when the regime felt its survival and its authority was seriously challenged. It is now more optimistic.

The Iranian regime dealt with the danger from opposition groups demanding reform by arresting the most influential and outspoken figures who challenged the regime and its Supreme Leader.

Despite the fact that the regime is more optimistic, it does realise that its popular base has greatly declined to less than 10 per cent of the total population. It also realises that about 80 per cent of Iranian society practices passive opposition. However, this segment does not pose a challenge to the regime since it does not engage in street protests and has not, to date, engaged with opposition forces at home or abroad.
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Sunday, 26 March 2023