By Struan Stevenson

While millions around the world tune-in to watch football in the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, young men and women in Iran are sacrificing their lives to restore freedom and justice to their long-suffering nation. The unfolding revolution in Iran must surely act as a wakeup call to the West. This pariah regime and its murderous trampling of human rights can no longer be tolerated. The civilized world must back the Iranian people and must support their right to overthrow the brutal clerical rule and replace it with a democratic republic. 

The report last week by MI5 director general Ken McCallum, revealing how Iran has tried to assassinate or kidnap ten people in Britain since the beginning of 2022, is the clearest sign yet of how the mullahs’ tottering grip on power has turned them into a lethal, international adversary. Mr McCallum said: “At [Iran’s] sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime. We have seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone. We work at pace with domestic and international partners to disrupt this completely unacceptable activity”. 

With the nationwide uprising in Iran now entering its tenth week and increasingly developing into a full-scale revolution, the regime has resorted to deadly tactics at home and abroad. On-going protests in Iran have expanded to at least 252 cities, with more than 660 people killed so far by the repressive security forces and over 30,000 arrested. The revolt, which began in September with the murder in custody of the young Kurdish girl Mahsa Amini, for not wearing her veil properly, has now escalated into an outpouring of hatred for the theocratic regime and its misogynist rulers. ‘Death to Khamenei” has become one of the keynote chants heard during the mass demonstrations, as Iranians demand the downfall of the elderly supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

Hundreds of Iranians attending the World Cup 2022 in Qatar have joined the protests, chanting “Say her name, Mahsa Amini”. The Iranian football team refused to sing their country’s national anthem before the start of their match with England in the Khalifa International Stadium, in a silent protest in support of the uprising. They may face severe retribution on their return. 

Meanwhile in Iran, the insurrection has reached a new phase, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and their thuggish Basij militia colleagues, deploying heavy weapons in a brutal crackdown against the mostly young protesters. Helicopter gunships now swoop low over the surging demonstrations, while armoured military vehicles open fire with high calibre machine-guns, scything down women and men indiscriminately. Live ammunition and tear gas has been fired into people’s homes. Dozens have been killed or injured. Doctors and nurses are even attempting to treat injured protesters in private homes, as people wounded during the protests are routinely dragged from their hospital beds and hauled off to prison. Drones film those taking part in the demonstrations and they are then arrested by the IRGC and face long terms of imprisonment or even execution, for daring to oppose the regime. Death sentences have already been announced by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on several people arrested during the protests.

In recent days, the most intense protests have been in the north-western Kurdish-majority provinces, with videos continuing to emerge from several cities, including Mahabad, Bukan and Piranshahr in West Azerbaijan and Javanrud in Kermanshah. The regime has tried to prevent the spread of information about its brutal crackdown by blocking the internet and banning international journalists from entering the country. But evidence has continued to surface showing unarmed student protesters blockading streets and courageously confronting the security forces, while facing the full military might of the mullahs’ regime. Mass strikes and protests have continued in universities throughout the country, including in the capital Tehran and in Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Marvdasht, Karaj, Tabriz, Sari, Najafabad and Yazd. The students have been joined by bazaar merchants who have gone on strike in dozens of cities, closing their shops and seriously undermining the already reeling economy.

The uprising has been carefully coordinated from day one by the main democratic opposition movement, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which had set up resistance units in towns and cities throughout Iran. These resistance units have expanded rapidly throughout the insurrection. Posters, graffiti, hand bills and banners have highlighted direct backing for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and MEK, provoking a furious response from the mullahs who have a deep fear of the key opposition movement. However, the MEK has continued to hack into national government TV networks, interrupting news and current affairs broadcasts at peak times, with pictures of the Paris based Maryam Rajavithe President-elect of the NCRI and calls for the overthrow of the regime. The resistance units have used social media to highlight the millions who struggle to survive on incomes under the poverty line, against a background of uncontrollable rises in inflation, water shortages and soaring unemployment.

The Iranian opposition has urged the UN Security Council and the EU and its member states to take immediate action to stop the killing of defenceless protesters, including comprehensive political and economic sanctions against the mullahs, listing of the IRGC and Iran's Ministry of Intelligence on EU terror blacklists and the expulsion of their agents and mercenaries from their respective countries.