On December 28, 2017, major protests against the Iranian regime broke out in Mashhad and quickly spread to numerous other urban centers. Mostly merely noisy at first, some turned violent and eventually the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) suppressed the phenomenon, killing some and arresting thousands of others. Protests have continued, but news about them is scanty. How are they to be evaluated?
There are interesting parallels with the twilight of the East German regime. By a coincidence, the Iranian regime is in its fortieth year and the East German regime suddenly collapsed just after its leaders had held a large-scale pompous celebration of its fortieth anniversary in the capital, East Berlin.
At its downfall, the government and security apparatus of the so-called “German Democratic Republic” appeared to be, as always, thoroughly in control, yet it took only a few chance events to start a domino effect that swept it away. There was the swell of holidaymakers who drove their polluting “Trabis” into Hungary or Czechoslovakia and thence via Austria into West Germany, because those East European countries had stopped preventing them. Beginning on September 4, 1989, there were the Monday marches that set out after the morning “Prayer for Peace” in Leipzig’s St. Nicholas Church.
The fortieth anniversary celebration took place on October 6. On October 9, the morning march in Leipzig encompassed 70,000. In a fateful turning point, the local leaders of the regime decided not to send in the police for fear of mass casualties. Thereafter the marches knew no limits and not just in Leipzig. On November 9, a government spokesman, trying to placate the citizens with a minor concession, issued a mumbled announcement about making it easier to get permits to visit West Germany. East Berliners misunderstood him to mean that the border was now open and rushed to the checkpoints to West Berlin. The guards, equally confused, let them through. Where a hundred thousand had marched to celebrate the regime on October 6, now tens of thousands began to stream through daily in both directions.