Iran is undergoing an identity crisis. For almost a month, in streets and neighborhoods across the country, people are at war with the IRGC and have rebelled against the Islamic Republic, calling for the death of its supreme leader and an end to the theocratic regime’s 43 years of rule, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Tehran’s morality police.
The protests are mostly led by young women and teenage girls, who have abandoned their state-imposed religious headscarves in rejection of the very premise of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the theocracy it birthed.
The nature and scope of the protests have made many wonder whether this could be another revolution – one that could topple the Islamic Republic and replace it with a more liberal and representative democracy. The primary obstacle standing in the protesters’ way is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the 1979 revolution’s most potent offspring.
In that earlier revolution, it was the Iranian military’s decision to declare neutrality and stand down that signalled the end of the Pahlavi dynasty, setting Iran on a new course. The IRGC, by contrast, was designed precisely to stand with the regime no matter what – even if that means standing against the people.
The IRGC is a powerful military force that serves as the bedrock of the Islamic Republic’s order. It oversees the regime’s security and is the most influential voice, apart from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the country’s strategic decision-making.
That role has made it the primary mechanism for organising repression within the country. In past episodes of political unrest, such as the 1999 student protests and the mass demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential election, it was the IRGC and its volunteer militia, the Basij, that led the charge against protesters, using brute force, arrests and torture to quell the tumult.
The IRGC reprised that role in protests that stretched from late 2018 into 2020 but escalated its tactics in some places into a fully militarised response, using live fire and armoured vehicles to kill protesters at a much higher scale than in previous crackdowns.
Read the complete article: Iran protests: To win, the regime must go to war with women and teenage girls