The uprising that started in December 2017 in Iran was a powerful sign of unrest that rattled the religious dictatorship and all its factions. The protests started for seemingly economic grievances but rapidly expanded to widespread and continuous calls for the overthrow of the regime in its entirety. Protesters chanted “Death to Khamenei”, “Death to Rouhani”, and “Reformer, Hardliner, the game is now over”, targeting the entirety of the clerical coalition that rules Iran.
The protests continued throughout 2018 and encompassed workers, farmers, rural communities, teachers, defrauded investors, truckers, environmentalists, and women and students. The protesters denounced the regime’s foreign policy with “Let go of Syria, think about our condition” and “Our enemy is here, but they lie to us that it’s America.”
International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International estimate about 7,000 arrests by the regime during the uprisings and protests, and the regime itself has admitted to at least 4,600 arrests (Hassan Abbasi, Ofogh State TV, June 1, 2019). The Iranian Resistance has reported that as of January 2019, a more accurate figure is around 8,000 according to internal reporting and research. Security forces killed at least 36 persons during the uprisings, 11 of them under brutal torture in regime detention centers.
The PMOI/MEK’s resistance units have been very active in all cities across Iran, informing and assisting the public on ways to resist the regime. The MEK expanded its “Resistance Units” over the past year. Their activities include torching large billboards of Khamenei and Rouhani in busy districts of Tehran and other cities, and destroying regime symbols at Bassij and IRGC centers. They write slogans against the regime, distribute informational leaflets, and drape bridges in busy districts of Tehran with huge banners of Mrs. Rajavi. The regime is very alarmed that these activities will encourage the public to further rise up against it.
- Mahmoud Alavi, Minister of MOIS, admitted on April 19, 2019, that the regime had arrested 116 Resistance Units of the MEK over the past year. This is a clear acknowledgment of the Resistance Units progress and activities.
- A report by the MOIS in East Azerbaijan province on April 22, 2019, stated, that MEK activities in the province increased in the period of March 2018 to March 2019. The report said, “The MEK exploited economic and social problems to expand its activities last year. Some 60 persons associated with the group were arrested and more than 50 others were identified and warned.”
- Fars News Agency, affiliated with IRGC reported on August 5, 2018: “In the turmoil of January 2018, the PMOI identified opportunities and capacities inside the country and formally ordered operations to be launched through Resistance Units. These units consisted of 2 to 5 MEK members.”
- State-run Baharestaneh website – August 28, 2018: “Today, the PMOI have infiltrated in all social sectors and are directing them, including truck drivers, bazaar merchants, teachers and workers.”
- State-run Baharestaneh website – August 28, 2018: “The PMOI have formed groups called ‘Resistance Units’ that have the power of replication, and the potential and ability to replace their leaders in the field.”
- Eje’I, the spokesman for the regime’s Judiciary: “Nowadays some people chant slogans against the Judiciary and the authorities. Be careful, God forbid, a PMOI member might come in the people’s midst and people will follow him. We must be careful not to be abused by the PMOI.”
- Ghasemi, an IRGC commander – August 7, 2018: “We have a problem, namely the PMOI. We must be careful not to neglect this. They have infiltrated some organizations and IRGC ranks.”
The PMOI/MEK has also organized “popular councils” which have been very active in all cities across Iran, informing and assisting the public on ways to resist the regime. While members of Resistance Units are from the younger generation, members of popular councils are people from all ages and sectors of the population who take part in certain social activities.
These councils have provided advice and opportunities to organize independently for cooperative assistance to stricken compatriots ignored by the corrupt clerical regime. One exemplary campaign was during the disastrous floods that overtook Iran in April, May, and June. PMOI/MEK popular councils gathered material assistance donated in various neighborhoods and trucked and distributed them to stricken areas. People bitterly complaining that the government had done nothing to assist them met the council members with warm welcome.
The regime faces a dilemma by pretending that the PMOI/MEK has no popular support in Iran, and yet increasingly needing to point out the active presence of PMOI/MEK resistance units and councils in order to dissuade the public from joining them. This trend has led to increasing news of resistance activities in regime news media in recent months.
Public news of sentences of PMOI/MEK activists have been frequently surfacing in the news media. On May 20, a so-called revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced a 34 year-old PMOI/MEK activist and member of a resistance unit to death and three others to five years in prison for engaging in non-violent dissemination of anti-regime literature.
The PMOI/MEK has announced that the actual figures of arrests and sentences have been much higher. Due to various security concerns and need for secrecy to protect sources and methods, the PMOI/MEK published a limited list of names recently of 28 detainees in over 13 cities, appealing to international human rights organizations to take urgent action for their release.
In the past 12 months up to June 2019, popular uprisings and protests have swept through 556 cities and towns and industrial centers in Iran, consisting of 1354 workers actions in 146 cities.
A brief tally of organized protests and strikes is:
- Four rounds of widespread national strikes by truckers in 323 cities
- Three rounds of national strikes by teachers in 104 cities from 348 academic institutions
- Widespread bazaar (business) strikes in 12 provinces
- A 38-day strike and protest marches by the Ahwaz steel workers union
- A 28-day strike and protest marches by the Haft-Tapeh sugar cane workers in Shush
- Railroad workers strike in 35 cities protesting unpaid salaries
- Municipal workers strike in 60 cities protesting unpaid salaries
PMOI/MEK resistance units and councils with thousands of dedicated members in over 150 cities and towns continue to organize and campaign for regime change in Iran leading to daily protest actions in various cities.
The exhibition focuses on these protests and campaigns.