The Revolt Against the Supreme Leader Begins
First things first: so far as I know, the bazaars are still on strike. And yes, I know that the Los Angeles Times said it was over a couple of days ago, but for once I think they have it wrong. As of Sunday night, Iran time, the grand bazaar in Tehran, and those in Isfahan, and above all Tabriz, were all closed. Indeed, even many stores outside the bazaar in Tabriz were shut, and I have been receiving reports for several days claiming that a merchants’strike is spreading throughout East Azerbaijan. In the last few days, the bazaar in Mashad -- a city of enormous religious importance to the regime -- has also shut down, at least in part.
It takes a lot of nerve for the bazaaris to go on strike, since they and their families have been repeatedly threatened by regime thugs. Not, mind you, in a general way, but very directly and personally; their houses are visited by security officials and their families are called to warn of dire consequences if they do not open their stores. So far, the threats have failed.
Moreover, in the city of Zahedan — where the murderous suicide attacks took place last week (the best coverage, as usual, was from Banafsheh, who was first with the pictures of the killers) -- the Revolutionary Guards control things during the day, but once night falls, anti--regime forces, many of them armed, take to the streets. In short, the people have lost their fear. The regime may very well arrest them, beat them, torture them, and kill them, but it is getting more and more difficult to control them.
Very few news stories noticed the two most significant aspects of the bombing at the Zahedan mosque. The first was the regime's panicky reaction: at first they announced, correctly, that the attack had been carried out by Balouch fighters. Then they realized that this was bad for the regime, since they had bragged for some time that the Revolutionary Guards had shut down all possibility of protest, following last year's devastating suicide bombing of a big RG meeting in the region. So they quickly changed their story, reverting to the party line that anything bad in Iran is the fault of the Satanic forces embodied in the United States and Israel.
The second key feature of the attack in Zahedan was the day on which it occurred: it was Pasdar day, the occasion of celebrating the great strength and virtue of the Revolutionary Guards. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei himself had delivered the official tribute that very morning in the capital. The suicide bombing showed that the regime is not in control of the situation, and that the people have not accepted its authority.
Not that the regime has stopped trying; in a spasm of repressive regulations that would make even the mayor of New York City jealous, the mullahs announced a new crackdown on un-Islamic dress for the women (leading one commentator to remark that it is now officially a crime to be female in Iran), stipulated permissible hairstyles for the men, forbade smoking in executive branch offices, and, in one of those executive orders that leaves you breathless, banned sexual intercourse during daylight hours. Sex in Iran is now kosher -- sorry, halal -- only during the night. Apparently, the authorities have not contemplated the political consequences of sexual frustration among a famously young population, but then this regime has already had devastating effects on the psychology of the Iranian people. According to an Iranian research institute, Aria, an amazing 58% of Tehran residents suffer from depression, and the chief of police there announced that nearly half a million are addicted to drugs, while unemployment, which is particularly severe among young people and college graduates, is now at 14%.
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