The Iranian people strike back

While Western liberals have been sucking up to the Iranian regime, the Iranian people have been opposing it.

Tim Black

Tim Black

Topics Politics USA World

It was always going to be an uneasy alliance. Many Western liberals, long used to kneejerk anti-Americanism, and now blinded by their loathing for President Donald Trump, had thoughtlessly leapt to the defence of the Islamic Republic of Iran after Trump authorised the drone-killing of Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani. While few went as far as filmmaker Michael Moore in their Soleimani sycophancy, many were all too happy to see the Iranian state as some sort of innocent victim of US imperialism. And in doing so, they didn’t only endorse the Iranian state — they also sold out the Iranian people, from those women in Iran who bravely protested the compulsory hijab law in 2017 to those tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets a couple of months ago to demonstrate against this repressive, corrupt theocracy .

Western liberals are now finding it a little more difficult to cosy up to Iran’s clerics, security forces and military. That’s because the illusion of the Iranian state as the just and righteous protector of the Iranian people has been shattered by the Iranian state’s own actions. Not so much because it shot down a Ukrainian International Airlines flight, having mistaken it for a US fighter plane, killing all 176 passengers, including 82 Iranians. But because it initially refused to admit it had done so. Instead, officials obfuscated and outright lied, before, days later, they were forced to admit the truth.

The reaction among ordinary Iranians was spontaneous. Thousands came out on to the streets of the capital Tehran and other cities this weekend, angrily denouncing their own rulers. ‘We don’t want the Islamic republic’, they chanted. ‘Death to the dictator’, they continued, pointing the finger firmly at Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At Iran’s elite Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, students damned Khamenei’s rule. ‘You have lied to us’, said one student while addressing the crowd: ‘The state broadcast company has lied to us. You think we are all stupid. The supreme leader must answer to us about the country’s problems. Mr Khamenei, why are you lying?’ Gelare Jabbari, a host on Iranian state TV, even asked for forgiveness: ‘I apologise for lying to you on TV for 13 years.’

This takes guts. Contrary to the belief of the likes of Rose McGowan and Colin Kaepernick and other newfound Western followers of Iran, the Iranian state is not known for its tolerance of dissent. True to form, the security forces have since moved in. Videos show tear-gas being deployed and, ominously, shots being fired. There have been countless arrests and no doubt killings, too.

But the response by the Iranian state has lacked its usual strong-armed conviction. And no wonder. The Iranian political class itself is increasingly divided. Those loyal to the ayatollah and the Islamic revolution continue to play the same old tunes. ‘Iran’s policy of kicking the US out of the region is unchanged and you will see Iran will strike another major blow [against the US] directly or indirectly very soon’, said hardline politician Hamid Reza Taraghi. But others of a more moderate, reformist bent are increasingly downcast. Ali Shakouri Rad, the head of the Union of Islamic Iran People Party, stated that the public and the clerical government were now thoroughly opposed. ‘Covering up the mistake of downing the passenger jet with missiles’, he tweeted, ‘was throwing acid at the image of the Islamic Republic’.

The political class is right to be concerned. The current protests are not isolated. Rather, they are yet another eruption of a growing, if diffuse anti-regime sentiment, born in the context of a collapsing economy, high levels of unemployment and a repressive, illiberal state. All of which has been exacerbated — though not caused — by the US’s harsh sanctions regime.

This sentiment was visible towards the end of 2017-18, when, on the back of countless labour disputes, the Iranian working class took to the streets in the very conservative cities and towns the Islamic Republic traditionally thought of as its support base. You could hear those same vengeful words that have been chanted over the past few days: ‘Death to the dictator.’

The security forces may have crushed those protests, but not the sentiment. In November last year, protest erupted again, prompted by the government’s sudden decision to raise fuel prices by 50 per cent. People quickly took to the streets, not just in Tehran, but deep into Iran’s provinces and other major cities, like Shiraz, Isfahan and Tabriz. State forces reacted swiftly and harshly, shutting down the nation’s internet, and, according to reports, killing hundreds and injuring and imprisoning many thousands more.

Despite the lack of reportage emanating from Iran, that which did leak out told of the anti-cleric slogans and the attacks on government buildings, religious schools and municipal offices. It showed that these protests, like those in 2017-18, were aimed squarely at the Islamic Republic itself. Against a state riven by endemic corruption. Against the cronyistic layers of officials lining their own pockets. Against a judiciary serving the interests of powerful clerics. Against a vast security apparatus that kills without compunction.

And it is that same anti-regime sentiment, albeit more concentrated this time among a middle-class constituency, that has erupted once again in the past few days. There is little prospect that it is going to bring down the ayatollah anytime soon. But it does show the extent to which the legitimacy of this 40-year-old theocracy is unravelling. Hence the talk now of the downing of the Ukranian Airlines flight being a Chernobyl moment, a reference to the political blow dealt to Soviet Russia by its failure to admit the extent of the nuclear disaster in 1986. Force and coercion can only sustain a regime like Iran for so long.

Yet while the protests won’t overthrow the Islamic Republic, they do shatter the illusions of those Western liberals who, after Soleimani’s killing, shamefully threw their lot in with the repressive, expansionist state power he served. They did over the Iranian people who want jobs and prosperity. They did over those who want freedom from state diktat, those women who don’t want to be forced to wear a hijab. And they did over those who want an accountable, democratic government.

The situation is clear. The Iranian people now bravely protesting against the illiberal, oppressive Iranian state have proven themselves far more progressive than some of their Western counterparts.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Thomas Smith

18th January 2020 at 11:20 am

Certainly, we must welcome the ongoing and ripening revolt of the Iranian workers against their bourgeois government. But certain crucial facts seem to evade Tim Black and the rest of the sp!ked team:
1) The killing of this General was a WAR CRIME.
2). Neither he nor the Iranian regime is IMPERIALIST, by Lenin’s definition. Iran is merely a REGIONAL POWER.
3). Neither Trump nor Johnson nor Brexit nor these two gentlemen’s xenophobic, pro-Zionist polices are supportable, merely because people voted for them within a highly skewed, bourgeois electoral system. That is populist nonsense.
4) The U.S. is an empire. The U.S. is imperialist.
5) As Karl Liebknecht argued, “The Main Enemy is at Home.”
6) Thus, while of course people like Michael Moore and the #Metoo fanatic, Rose McGowan, who has actually led a twitter storm driving one young woman to her death, have severe flaws in their thinking (and in McGowan’s case, though she is a good actress, her psyche), there is NOTHING WRONG and nothing sycophantic about condemning this IMPERIALIST WAR CRIME.
7) and to condemn this CRIME as a crime, is NOT to kiss up to the Ayatollah. That is RIDICULOUS.
8) Have you actually ASKED Moore or McGowan how they FEEL about the popular uprising in Iran against the regime? Since this condemnation, and such support for the populace, are NOT mutually exclusive, then how the HELL do you know they are being hypocritical, sycophantic, etc. for making this condemnation?
9) Did it ever occur to you that your RIGHT WING, FOUL populism, whereby you STOOGE for these political whores Trump and Johnson just because the masses have been manipulated into supporting them, is nothing but BUFOONERY?
While sp!ked is good on such subjects as woke, and identity politics, readers would do far better to read or These web sites make sense and are not mere SHILLS for the State Department or its equivalent in Great Britain.

michael savell

15th January 2020 at 6:22 pm

We all know this will carry on ad infinitum until both Islam and Christianity can bury the hatchet by resolving the differences between the religions and that can only be done by senior clerics who do not seem to be making any attempts to solve an almost unsolvable problem and it seems it will only be resolved by violence between the two.If we could agree on how the good citizen should live a life this would then allow for everybody else.

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 6:27 pm

No, conflict will carry on ‘ad infinitum’ because Islam is supremacist, expansionist and coercive by nature. It continues to preach and be based on the conquest and forced conversion of all non-Muslims or infidels, be they Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists etc. Like peoples and cultures, religions are not equally good: Islam invaded and violently conquered 60% of the Christendom extant at the time of Mohammed’s birth, never the reverse. Like the Borg, Islam exists to constantly subjugate and assimilate all ‘others’ unlike itself: Afghanistan was once Buddhist, Iran was Zoroastrian, Egypt and all of North Africa were Christian, today’s Pakistan was Hindu. In all, barbarity is increasing and human rights gone or going. No woman is equal to a man under Sharia law; gays are evil deviants, even most music is demonic. It’s also notable that radical Muslims traditionally called themselves the people of the sword, unlike the Jews and Christians they learnt to hate and persecute, whom they called the ‘people of the book’ after their principle method for disseminating Christianity. Today, no-one faces death or harmful reprisal for abandoning or mocking Christianity; it is almost entirely benign. But only the bravest or dumbest of artists would portray Mohammed in a tank of piss or present him as gay. Like leftists, Islam divides the world into black and white, good and bad, believers and infidels, and discriminates mercilessly and endlessly on that basis. In sum, nothing threatens our freedoms and way of life like Islam, with the possible exception of communism. Leftist apologists and appeasers are Islam’s greatest ally in building the umma, or fully Muslim world, in which no diversity or difference or freedom of thought will ever be tolerated.

Dominic Straiton

15th January 2020 at 11:46 am

I wonder what they do want. Certainly not democracy. Like Iraq,they dont have the institution that creates it. They would have to create from scratch , freedom of speech, expression and association. All the things that have been abandoned in the west. Id say they will be a theocracy for the foreseeable future. They might have less letterboxes than us soon though.

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 6:40 pm

Maybe you are forgetting what a modern, westernised society Iran was prior to 1979. So many Iranians alive today want to return to that golden age, and their kids share the dream. Who wants life in a society controlled by bigoted Islamist dictators and murdering fanatics? No wonder so many Iranians are risking their lives to thank Trump for killing one of their greatest oppressors. They know very well how 1500 protestors were killed by the state last November alone. Now compare their plight to that of today’s youth in the UK, where so many hate and seek to transform their own culture through extremist groups like Momentum or Extinction Rebellion.

Jonnie Henly

15th January 2020 at 10:15 am

“Many Western liberals, long used to kneejerk anti-Americanism, and now blinded by their loathing for President Donald Trump, had thoughtlessly leapt to the defence of the Islamic Republic of Iran after Trump authorised the drone-killing of Iran’s top general”

Including Spiked, but I guess you’re keen to gloss over that….

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 6:45 pm

I see no Spiked house policy on dissing Trump; while it does publish articles full of smears, fears and sneers, a good number of positive pieces also appear. Apart from the excellent ‘Conservative Woman’, I know of no other biggish UK news outlet which does the same

In Negative

15th January 2020 at 10:06 am

“The reaction among ordinary Iranians was spontaneous. Thousands came out on to the streets of the capital Tehran and other cities ”

As our own experiences with hundreds of thousands of university students on the streets of the capital screaming “stop Brexit” demonstrates, this is hardly a representative sample of the Iranian population. Pittied against the millions that came out for Soleimani’s funeral, I’m not convinced this article is telling a complete truth.

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 6:49 pm

The millions coming out for Soleimani’s funeral had zero fear of being shot or imprisoned, unlike anyone opposing the Islamist dictators. In November 2019 alone, about 1,500 iranians were killed. Would you protest knowing that?

Jim Lawrie

15th January 2020 at 9:59 am

Might I add to your list a complete opposition to the free market, and the carving up of commerce. Known as “The Bazaar” in Iran. All under the guise of anti-Capitalism and anti-Imperialism, cheered on for decades by the Western Left, justified by infallible religious edict.

The woeful inefficiencies mean the military often are the only ones who can step in and plug the gaps, both logistically and politically. One of the reasons for rival militaries in such countries. This results in the bizarre situation of The Army having their own brand of cornflakes, car factories, travel agencies, wedding companies, road building operations etc ….. They in turn are sucked into the web of corruption and patronage with a vested interest in killing off any competition.

Regardless of the elevation of any individual, we did not consent to them being here. The group of terrorists who tried to bomb Glasgow Airport were doctors working in our NHS. Under Donald Trump’s proposals they would not have been let in, because they cannot be reliably vetted.

Jim Lawrie

15th January 2020 at 10:44 am

This was meant as a response to Mike Stallard and Brandy Cluster below.

In Negative

15th January 2020 at 12:20 pm

“Might I add to your list a complete opposition to the free market, and the carving up of commerce. Known as “The Bazaar” in Iran. ”

And in a sense, you might be at the heart of some matter here, albeit in a typically partisan way. That the free market doesn’t encompass all forms of human life and that human life will always organise around myriad alternatives. The arrogance of the West is that they have some superior system of socio-political organisation; or at least, it’s through that illusion that they try to further their own values and markets. Every social conservative should know by now that the free market is destructive to and has destroyed much of what they held dear.

Religious relations are fundamentally different to free-market relations. The free-market is an engine of production – it multiplies values and systems of exchange without end. It uses the symbolic irrationalities of human interaction in order to sell them things and sell their own lives and choices back to them. Religious states, such as Iran, bring the symbolic irrationalities to heel under the yoke of a single truth through unifying ritual and the idea of God.

That sense of freedom (or ‘transcendence’) Westerners receive through the expression and fulfillment of their individual desires, religious people put down to God. God is the feeling of transcendence achieved by prayer, ritual, martyrdom etc., whereas the Westerner puts transcendence down to the experience of himself. The atheist/heathen is distracted from God and mistakes what is God’s for an experience of himself. The mystical experience exists in both capitalism and religious fundamentalism, it’s just the former uses it to sell things and create things.

It is an endless source of interest to me how well values such as free speech, tolerance, liberty and liberation, creativity and democracy, seem to serve free markets. There is good reason to believe that all these ideas are the underpinnings of the bourgeois value system.

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 6:56 pm

“Every social conservative should know by now that the free market is destructive to and has destroyed much of what they held dear.” Sorry, no: free market society has built much of what I hold dear about the western way of life, while nothing has destroyed global poverty and oppression more than capitalism (you may have noted how all leftist or Islamist dictators have ruined national wealth, human rights and freedoms). But everyone should know how leftist bigots and Islamists wish to tear it all down.

Michael Lynch

15th January 2020 at 9:16 am

It was bound to happen; the woke overdoing their wokeness. Trump cut the head off the chicken and the regime reacted accordingly. The regime undoubtedly thought the airliner was full of foreign nationals as they gave the order to shot it down. The usual shoot first and ask questions later knee-jerk response. They have demonstrated to the world just what a bunch of untrustworthy low life scumbags they are and Western liberals should show solidarity with the Iranian middle classes who oppose this blood soaked regime. Instead, it’s been sickening to watch how the woke West have reacted to this tragedy and suckered up to the oppressors. I saw that monumental prick, Trudeau, on the Telly last night implying that this was all Trump’s doing. Can’t the Canadian public see through this hypocritical tosser? The situation couldn’t have played out better for Trump, he has shown the world, yet again, that appeasement only emboldens rogue States.


15th January 2020 at 9:12 am

Why no comment about western capitalist support for the murderous, terror-exporting primitives in Saudi?

Ven Oods

15th January 2020 at 9:44 am

It could be the old ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Or perhaps all that lovely oil money they like to splash around (like the freebies our politicians so enjoy).
Presumably if they’d used a drone instead of dissecting a man inside an embassy, nobody would have turned a hair…

eli Bastenbury

15th January 2020 at 10:02 am

Wait until the oil runs out Zenobia.

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 7:08 pm

That’s your job, Xenops. Why should anyone complain about killers and tyrants in lovely Iran, where 1,500 protestors were killed last November alone? Also, are you aware of how Trump has enrolled Sunnis in Saudi by supporting their ancient stuggle against the Shia Muslems of Iran? He knows the two factions are engaged in a fight to the death for the honour of then killing all infidels on behalf of Allah. Trump has even engineered a once unthinkable defence alliance between Saudis and Israels! He thus keeps the Muslim tyrants at each other’s throats instead of killing us…. Sadly, I really doubt a troll like you would or could approve of anything by Trump except his resignation or death


15th January 2020 at 9:11 am

Is there anything Woke Rightists won’t blame on ‘western liberals’? I’m surprised you haven’t blamed them for the Holocaust yet…

Michael Lynch

15th January 2020 at 10:13 pm

Well actually Zen, you’ve hit on something there. There were plenty of Western Liberals who idolized Hitler in the 30s. Many of them openly saying that the persecution of German Jews was none of the rest of Europe’s business. People like GB Shaw were openly sympathetic toward Hitler; declaring that socialist dictators were necessary and that democracy was getting in the way of their progressive ideals. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 7:28 pm

‘woke rightist’! Ho ho Xenops – you moan so much about forcing ‘real humans’ into ‘abstract categories’, but just look at yourself! I certainly won’t be using such loaded rubbish. But we must categorize to speak and think, so why not choose accurate and non-offensive terms to describe those unlike you leftists, simple terms such as ‘non-leftist’ or ‘anti-leftist’? The added bonus is that such terms may hide your sneering hate and so make winning debates and persuading others possible. Insults never do, I heard.

Mike Stallard

15th January 2020 at 8:39 am

What part do you think that Shia Islam will play after the overthrow of Ayatollah Khomeni?

Brandy Cluster

15th January 2020 at 6:24 am

I’m sorry for Iraq, Iran and Syria because they once had a highly educated, clever middle class. But huge numbers of them have left. In Australia we have one such person from Iraq and he’s been nominated for Australian of the Year:

They’re not barbarians; their government is, and short of many people losing their lives in the fight for greater freedoms I don’t see that changing any time soon. Thoughts.

jessica christon

15th January 2020 at 8:12 am

I think the trouble is that there’s no reliable way of knowing just how representative a self selecting group of western integrated, middle class intellectuals are in the Iranian population as a whole. Were Iran to hold genuine elections tomorrow it might just as well be a case of meet the new boss he’s worse than the old boss, just like the way the Arab Spring went in Egypt.

Mike Stallard

15th January 2020 at 8:43 am

Modern Islam is a dead hand on the middle class. Women don’t fit in. The constant warfare doesn’t fit in. Ramadan and the five daily prayers do not fit in. Then there is the awkward forbidding of pork and gambling which affects sport. On top of that there are all sorts of nasty little traps: usury laws, and, (I hate mentioning this) the obsession with menstruation.
The middle class can either abandon their traditions or else insist on them – in which case they are unemployable.

cliff resnick

15th January 2020 at 10:38 am

Islam need its Reformation; how long have you got!

nick hunt

16th January 2020 at 8:15 pm

Few disagree that Iranian dictators are murdering barbarians and oppressors of ordinary Iranians. We know Iran funds and organises terror groups across the Middle East and has threatened Israel with nuclear destruction many times. We have seen Iranian politicians chanting ‘Death to the great Satan’ in the national assembly; just yesterday a Mullah called for the British ambassador to be ‘chopped into pieces’ for filming the massive protests against the regime. Imagine the outrage if Trump or Boris said this about the Mullahs! But so far as I know, no leftist leader condemns Iranian dictators, while no leftist leader ever praises Trump. The only western leader opposing Iranian tyranny and warmongering, even telling protesting Iranians how he stands with them and how inspiring they are, is Donald Trump. Yet leftists fear and hate their own defender much more than they fear the Mullahs . This is insane misjudgement of monumental proportions can only be blamed on leftist ideology and hate for western culture. Today’s leftists are clearly apologists and useful tools for murdering tyrants, just like the many brilliant leftists of the past who admired and/or appeased ‘great leaders’ like Hitler, Stalin and Mao. So has any cause ever been more lost or misguided?

Jane 70

15th January 2020 at 5:43 am

Moral courage on display here

Jim Lawrie

15th January 2020 at 12:22 am

A good expose of how The Western Liberal Left will side with anyone against the working class anywhere.

Brandy Cluster

15th January 2020 at 6:20 am

And what have the (so-called) western liberal Left (ha!!) got to say about those suffocating containment tarps the women are wearing? Sound of crickets.

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