In a Newsweek article of 10th. December by Tom O’connor “If Iran Falls, ISIS May Rise Again”, the author, based on the testimony of a range of pro-Iranian regime experts, tells us that if the Iranian dictatorship falls, ISIS will once again emerge. The narrative is exactly what the Iranian regime has been serving people inside and outside Iran since the rise of ISIS to frighten them away from any change. In fact, If I didn’t know any better, I would think the article is written by the Iranian revolutionary Gard (IRGC) backed news agency Tasmin. The article is in such favor to the Iranian regime that it has been covered by the Iranian propaganda state television Ofogh.
The cover page of Newsweek is interesting. It consists of a full HD picture of the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei, a brutal dictator that kills, tortures and imprisons his critics and opponents. It reminds me of the cover page of Time magazine in 1938 that featured Hitler. Yes, journalists can get it so wrong sometimes. Most of all the timing of this article is disturbing. It comes only a few weeks after the brutal crackdown of the protesters in Iran where up to 1,000 innocent people have been shot dead, among them women and children according to Amnesty international. One of them was a pregnant woman on the street trying to help an injured demonstrator.
Tom O’Connor wants to tell the world that we should keep the genocidal, misogynistic regime which hangs gays and which is no less than a Shia ISIS state itself. If we don’t keep this brutal religious dictatorship in power the alternative is ISIS. You can see the irony. After the massacre of numerous innocent people who took to the streets to protest against hikes in the price of gas, poverty, corruption, unemployment, the regime’s meddling in other countries such as Lebanon and Iraq where very recently angry demonstrators set fire to Iranian consulates, and shout “Iran out”, the article’s focus is on bashing the civilian protestors. The Ahwazi (arab), the Kurds and the Baluch ethnic groups separatists are linked in a pretentious tone. The claim is that these people are the ones trying to destabilize the country in the recent uprising. Previous separatists’ attacks on Iranian regime forces are described in detail.
As far as I know, no group has taken responsibility for the demonstrations in the southwest of Iran Ahwaz in the recent uprising, whereas the “Ahwazi resistance group” previously took responsibility for their attack on an Iranian military parade in 2018. This time though, the demonstrators from southwest of Iranian Khuzestan were the unarmed, poor and deprived people. They were not connected to any separatist groups, otherwise they wouldn’t be massacred helplessly by machine guns.
Not a word is mentioned on how discriminated the Khuzestan province or even its capital Ahwaz in southwest Iran or the Baluch people are. These people live under tremendous discrimination and are deprived of the smallest possibilities. School children sit in tents with torn clothes and haven’t eaten a proper meal for months. Sadly, while Khuzestan is the center of Iranian’s oil reserves, none of the income derived from oil seems to have gone to these poor people, but into the pockets of the regime’s oligarchy. The province has been suffering from problems regarding drinking water and a tremendous level of pollution for years now with nobody bothering to address them. Maybe the Newsweek author could have mentioned something about the massacre of Mahshar in the south of Khuzestan during Iranian protests in November. Even the Mahshar’s representative in the Iranian parliament, Ali Golmoradi, has protested the butchering of the protesters and has been manhandled inside the parliament itself. The story and the pictures are all over the media, even in Iran.
Instead of portraying poor deprived people as armed separatists who want to destabilize the country, the article could have focused on facts. Iranians are very diverse, both religiously and ethnically, but we have a strong sense of nationalism that binds us all together. Iranians are also very young and secular which gives no ground to any potential rise of ISIS, if the Iranian Shia extremist regime goes away.
In fact, the unarmed, unorganized Iranian demonstrators were shouting “Death to Khamenei”, burning his and Khomeini’s banners, declaring their enemies were at home and not the US, and demanded attention focused at home, not to a Shia extremist empire of the Iranian regime around the region which is a cause for ISIS recruit.
The rise of ISIS is a significant event that cannot be covered here or by Newsweek’s simplistic and biased article. The subject is far more complex. One thing that can be said about it is the role of the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad in creating it. The uprising of the Syrian people started during the Arab Spring, and the longing for freedom and democracy in a country where even the slightest criticism of domestic issues would result in imprisonment and torture. Typical torture techniques of the Assad regime include having your nails pulled out and being hanged from the ceiling by your feet. The response of the brutal dictator to the people’s desire for a better life was to shut them down brutally, the exact same way in which the Iranian regime does. The Iranian regime is Assad’s biggest supporter and partner.
Iranians have been protesting against the regime since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, from the uprising of women on 8th March 1979, to the uprising and massacres of 1988 and the shutdown of student protests in 1999, to the nationwide protests of 2009. Their numerous uprisings has had nothing to do with ISIS. Back then ISIS did not exist. The point that the dictatorship’s friends, such as O’Conner and his team of experts, do not want to take in is the fact that you cannot suppress people’s quest for a better life and freedom. If you suppress them the way Assad did, you will create monsters like ISIS.
Assad belongs to a very small Shia Alawites that suppressed the Sunni majority. Their brutal oppression has found a brutal way out. If he had resigned at the beginning of uprising, ISIS would have never been created. It is not the innocent people longing for freedom and democracy that creates things like ISIS, it is the other way around. It is the brutal suppression of them by ruthless dictators that won’t give up power. The regime change is the key for stabilization. This is the point that Newsweek and its reporter must consider next time, when they are promoting a Hitleresque figure on their front page and use ISIS as an excuse to support him.