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Khamenei, the Iranian people have turned on you: An open letter

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Benjamin Franklin, had you met him, would not have been your cup of tea. 

A long-haired thinker, writer, inventor, publisher and diplomat, he was a pioneer of modern democracy, a major crusader for freedom, and a beacon for the founders of the US. 

I am telling you this not because I expect you to admire Franklin, but because of something he said; an insight of which you, as rebellion’s commotion gathers outside your window, had better take stock. 

“Rebellion against tyrants,” Franklin said, “is obedience to God.” Yes, you vehemently disagree, and in fact contend that tyranny is God’s will. Still, Franklin’s dictum should explain to you what your own national soccer team said when it refused, in front of the whole world, to sing your national anthem before its Monday match vs England, in Doha, Qatar.

Iranian players’ World Cup statement

 YOUR PLAYERS did not explain their move, but their silence thundered nonetheless, perhaps more forcefully than any verbal statement. 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting via video conference with people from East Azarbaijan in Tehran, Iran, February 17, 2022. (credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

If, as midfielder Saman Ghoddos told The Athletic before the game, “What the people want is nothing special, just freedom,” then the people’s conscience forbids them to sing your anthem’s cry “Oh Martyrs! / Your clamors echo in the ears of time / Enduring, continuing, and eternal / The Islamic Republic of Iran!” 

Evidently, your own athletes think that you, and everything you represent, have lost the Iranian people’s trust, respect and patience. And if that’s what they, all 11 of them, now feel, then clearly so does a critical mass of your people; not only the thousands who have taken to the streets where they clash with the thugs you unleash on them daily, but many more millions whom the rebels bravely represent. 

Yes, there have been previous rounds of unrest during your Islamist Republic’s 43 years. You had fuel riots in 2019, stolen-election riots in 2009; and last year, rioters protested soaring electricity prices, to mention but a few such eruptions over the decades. None, however, was comparable to what has been happening in the streets of Tehran, Meshed, Tabriz, and some 100 other towns across the land that, under your stewardship, has become one of the sorriest in the world. 

This protest is not merely about better delivery of this or that product or service, or about one man’s election instead of another. It’s not even about your goons’ killing in September of Mahsa Amini, the woman they arrested for failing to meet the dress code you imposed without ever seeking the people’s consent. Instead, the unrest that her death sparked is about everything: it’s about your means, your aims, your priorities, your historical record and your foundational beliefs. 

Geographically, the current unrest has erupted in and between all corners of your country, from Kurdistan in the west to Baluchistan in the east. Socially, and unlike previous demonstrations, it has swept all layers and classes – urban, rural, educated, proletarian, merchant, peasant, rich and poor. The people are fed up with you, all of you. 

The Iranian people want basics: freedom, opportunity, fulfillment, wealth, and, even more basically, dignity and respect. You had 43 years to deliver this elemental package, and you wasted them all. 

You have stoked rampant inflation, concocted mass unemployment, and printed paper money. University graduates have nothing to do with their degrees, their jobs robbed by your loyalists, and people who once were in the middle class now skip meals daily, and have meat hardly once a month. 

Entire farming areas have dried up under your management. Public works projects are handed to the Revolutionary Guards with no tenders, effectively telling the people that loyalty to your theft machine means everything, and merit means nothing.

NOW YOU tell yourself: a few more weeks of demonstrators marching and screaming, and us sniping and jailing, and it will be all over. We have been there before. 

Well, that’s what Europe’s communist leaders thought when their downfall approached. They didn’t understand how much people hated them, their ideology, their violence, the destitution they spawned and the humiliation it fueled. 

You think of yourself as a gospel bearer, but the fact is you bore shortage, despair and death – so much so that you are hated not only by your own people, but also throughout the Middle East, where you fanned multiple civil wars, and along the vast, intercontinental arch along which you deployed terrorists from Buenos Aires to Bangkok.  

This, in brief, is the face of the tyranny that you have built, and which your citizens are out to remove. 

Yes, the revolt you face has hardly begun, and will likely take years to mature. But mature it will. The fire that your rebels set last week to Ayatollah Khomeini’s house in the town of Khomein will spread on. The more you club, arrest and execute your youth’s best and brightest, the more the revolt will grow. 

Each of your hoodlums’ victims has relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbors, all of whom thus lose what little respect they might still have had for you. Some are also losing their fear. And those, the brave ones, will also produce leaders. 

And the leaders will gradually create cells, gather arms, and organize attacks whose number, lethality and daring will steadily grow. Gradually, they will become planned and systematic, first targeting your tyranny’s tools, like your riot police’s motorcycles, and then its operatives – police commanders, secret agents, army generals, cabinet ministers and clergymen like you. 

The bloodshed with which you seized power, and the hatred you then cultivated, will thus turn on you, as the people you have disempowered, abused and bereaved tell you in blood and fire that the rebellion your tyranny invited is Iran’s destiny, and God’s will.

The writer, a Hartman Institute fellow, is the author of the bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s political leadership.

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