THE STREETS OF IRAN are calming down after more than a week of protests about fundamental issues—jobs, corruption, the cost of food—that quickly took on political overtones. Many demonstrators called for an end to the theocratic regime’s costly adventures outside Iran’s borders, and, in a few cases, an end to that regime altogether.
The demonstrations took place more or less spontaneously in cities and towns all over the country, and the government at first appeared confused, with hardliners blaming moderates, moderates blaming hardliners, and, of course, many in the regime claiming this was all a plot by Iran’s foreign enemies: the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia. But by late last week, the government had largely reasserted control over the streets, and the big question that looms is, “What next?”
“The Iranian government might be able to suppress the protest for a few days, maybe a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years, through allocating security forces, government resources, to the suppressing people’s protest,” Maziar Bahari, who was jailed in Iran in 2009 and is now the London-based editor of IranWire, told Politico Magazine. “But because of these protests, unemployment, corruption, the ineffectual Islamic system that has been Iran for the past 40 years—these will not go away. And as a result, people will come to the streets and demonstrate any time there is a measure of space.”
Of course mass communications are important to encourage mass movements, conveying information, inciting action, helping to organize. But the uprisings of the last two weeks brought attention to two media groups that in varying degrees are calling for violence using “news” that sometimes sounds about as phony as something published by InfoWars. It’s an approach considered problematic even—one might say especially—by many inside and outside Iran who are hopeful the protests will bring real change.
As columnist Eli Lake wrote for Bloomberg View, “The state has many more guns than the people do. The best odds for the uprising come through nonviolent civil disobedience. The goal for Iran’s demonstrators now should be to build as wide a coalition as possible. If regular people feel threatened by revolutionaries, they will not feel safe enough to join the opposition to the dictator. The opposition must create a space where regular police officers feel empowered and safe enough to disobey if ordered to disperse crowds and arrest activists.”
Following is a detailed picture of the two networks published by IranWire, which is a partner of The Daily Beast.