May 19th is the date for Iran’s theocratic definition of a “presidential election,” setting the stage for a major showdown pitting the camp of hardliners rallying behind conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi against the so-called “moderate/reformists” placing their support for the incumbent Hassan Rouhani. The mullahs’ regime can’t boast about being a democracy, ranked 154th out of 167 countries in a worldwide democracy index amassed by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Standing out in Iran’s 2017 presidential election season, however, is the massive turnout of brave activists across the country making the call for a nationwide polls boycott on Friday. The Iranian regime has attempted to cloak the activities of its true opposition, seen across the country these days, from the eyes of international journalists and reporters. Despite the regime’s harsh reaction, arrests and eliminating any sign of opposition supporters, the scope of these measures have escalated tremendously and social media has provided the platform to spread the message amongst all Iranians, and to the outside world.
The Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its main member, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have campaigned recently through their network inside the country.
Posters of Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi have been seen from bridges and overpasses in numerous major highways both in the Iranian capital and several other cities. Her pictures are also seen in public areas and outside headquarters of the repressive Revolutionary Guards paramilitary Bassij. The PMOI/MEK emblem is also seen on car windshields, distributed flyers and even T-shirts, accompanied with calls for regime change.
The cities of Tehran, Mashhad, Tabriz, Isfahan, Shiraz and many others hosted such scenes carried out by the activists. Farsi slogans reading “No to executioner Ebrahim Raisi, No to Demagogue Hassan Rouhani, Our Vote Regime Change”, “My Vote Maryam Rajavi” and “Down with the mullahs’ regime, Down with Khamenei, Hail to Rajavi” were written on the pictures, according to PMOI/MEK activists and video files sent from inside Iran.
Even those behind bars in Iran, understanding fully well the consequences of any similar measures by their part, have risen to the occasion. A group of political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) issued a letter announcing their “boycott of this façade and demanding a free election under international supervision to establish a free society based on freedom and rule of people from all walks of life, without any gender, ethnic, religious or … discrimination based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
These activities have crossed a threshold for the regime, indicated much so in reactions from state media.
“The blind hearted MEK waiting in the wings. Beware! Putting up Maryam Rajavi’s poster under Tehran’s Sattar Khan Bridge today,” is the translation of a recent Farsi post in Paytakht (Capital) Magazine.
Rajavi recently voiced her views about this new round of presidential election in Iran, described by many as a game repeated by the regime every four years.
“The upcoming election sham, as it has always been the case, is just a ritual of dividing the power among the factions which make up the ruling religious tyranny. It does not enjoy any legitimacy among the people of Iran. The outcome, whatever it be, is rejected and disdained by the Iranian people and Resistance. In any case, the crisis-riddled clerical regime will emerge weaker and more vulnerable in the wake of this election ,” she said. Rajavi is officially the Paris-based NCRI’s President-elect.
Recent developments, and the Iranian regime’s reaction, are a clear suggestion of how the mullahs fear the potential of opposition groups far more than any military threat from a foreign state. This recent turn of events have acted as a wake-up call for both Iran’s elite in Tehran and their lobbyists in the West, who are left in despair, knowing there is no longer an appeasement drive to cling on.
This is the dawn of a new era in Iran.