A Decentralized Revolution.
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin might be the first things that come to mind when you hear “Decentralization.”
As you can guess, however, those are not the topics of this article. Here we want to talk about an interesting phenomenon that grassroots movements across a nation adopted during their recent uprising to be more invincible in a brutal environment that suppresses any opposition.
It’s not a secret. Everyone knows it. People, the Media, the world, and more than anyone else the government itself:
The absolute majority of the people of Iran do not want the current regime. They don’t want the Islamic Republic anymore.
And again, everyone knows it, even the government, but, for obvious reasons, they don’t want to acknowledge it.
Younger generations might not remember or know that the current regime was brought to power some 44 years ago by a people uprising against the king ending in a revolution in 1979.
So the foundational literature, propaganda, and ideologies supporting the regime's existence are based on the will of the people and the legitimacy of their choice, which at the time was favorable against them.
They established themselves as a democracy. They replaced the king of Iran because the people of Iran wanted that.
But soon, things changed. They had to silence people when they found out that they were lied to; they promised freedom, then started executing everyone who thought differently, closing newspapers and putting journalists and writers in prison, and banning films, books, and music.. at first, they tried to convince people that it’s needed to let the young revolutionary bud a chance to grow, but what was unfolding was far from what people planted; they overthrew the old tree and found a stinky weed taking over its place fast.
But either way, because the people paid the price and did all the hard work of bringing the new regime to power, they had to, at least on the surface, acknowledge the fact and pretend to be the people's choice, even when they were no more!
So they started the shabby game of hilariously blatant propaganda and spent tremendous amounts of money and energy on building and lubricating the huge mechanism to maintain an alternative reality that, although nobody would believe but would be enough to point a finger and say, hey look based on that reality I’m still wanted!
That, of course, was not enough; with the advent of satellite TVs (which are still banned), the internet, and social media, the creaky propaganda machine was less effective now.
Soon people started to remember that they had done it once so that they could do it again.. they started protesting and demanding change. Still, each time the government would find a way around it, and if it couldn’t, it would simply arrest the leaders of the movement and kill and poison a bunch of people until things settled; Doing so, they ended up arresting a good portion of themselves too.. people who once were fighting with them and suppressing aside them found themselves behind bars because the government was becoming more and more intolerant,
Let Decentralization Begin!
The protests in 2022 were by no mean the first or even the biggest in Iran; there were indeed many protests, national and regional, in all shapes, forms, and colors, demanding more or less the same principles that happened in Iran during the past dozens of years there has been a big, very large-scale protest, every few years, and they were all in one form or another, brutally suppressed and suffocated right when people would become hopeful that this time things might change.
So what makes the 2022 protest different? What makes it closer to a revolution?
A simple fact, it is decentralized!
The government of Iran is desperate to identify the leader or leaders of the movement to organize their attacks. They need a target for physical, mental, and cyber-attacks to be efficient.. they do not know who to fight, and they know that they can’t keep fighting the people for long; they are well aware of what they can do once they remember their power.
So people have learned from past experiences, protests, movements, and attempts to fix the situation that having a leader or a leading group or even type ( like students, for instance ) gives the government an easy target. So this time, they revolved around no leader.
It was awe-inspiring and seemed impossible! But somehow, through unknown social elections, the movement has found its voice, it has found its slogan, and it has found its music.. people just shared what best reflected their desire, their pain, and their problems; it would take mere minutes for songs to reach millions, for images, videos and messages to be transferred hand to hand and for the decision to be made, the liquid dynamics of a turbulent crowd reacting like waves react to the rocky shore. It was no joke; the unorganized sea of people was dangerously functional; they would find each other on the sidewalks, and plans would change on the fly to adapt to changing landscape, and each hour, each street, and each bunch of them, would find their leader for that moment.
Because there was no central leading circle, the revolution sharpened its edge faster than ever before; there was no one captain at the helm to caution against the usage of certain words or gestures, so the young and furious blood expressed itself more freely than ever before, they cussed at oppression forces and flipped them up, right in their faces, they told them up yours and the supreme leader of yours, go and leak his balls and leave us alone!
They targeted the central identity pillar of these dogmatic groups, their dignity, their honor, and showed them in naked truth that they had no honor, no dignity; they were as far from dignity as one could get. It was like they stripped the whole battalions of heavily armed riot police, completely naked, in front of everyone to see!
The government did not know what to do! They scrambled to kill, beat and hit people, but the decentralized crowd soon formed its front and back lines; there were countless artists, writers, cartoonists, and meme experts, with few to thousands of followers, in corners of the internet which is hard to target ( Like private groups and chat-rooms ) producing supporting material, documenting regime war-crimes and countering their attempts to propaganda.
So soon, the regime asked themselves what this new meme meant. The one that says 10–2=20! Where it came from? Of course, they knew what it meant but did not understand why everyone thought it was effective!
The regime fell into a cycle of doom; they killed many people, including young women and children, raped prisoners, and put prisons on fire to plant terror and fear in the heart of protesters. Still, after each killing, more people would gather, and more protests would form.
People were finding creative ways to keep them on their toes. Desperate to deal with the situation, the government started acting entirely illegally. For instance, to silent whole neighborhood blocks from screaming “bi-sharraf” ( no-dignity ) and “Down with dictator,” they started shooting smoke and flash cartridges at random houses, breaking high-riser windows and setting people's houses in-fire and damaging property in front of everyone to see. And, of course, all of that made no change; it only made things worse, as people truly enjoyed seeing their frustration!
But what is next?
So decentralization, or otherwise said, the lack of a centralized leading body, made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the government to shut it down, at least so far. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way out for them as they keep making things worse and worse by attacking the grass-root body of people, which is much more significant for any government to interface with directly ( also remember 10–2=20 again ). So what is going to happen next?
As you’d expect, the answer is simple: no one knows! But from what I have learned, talking with people in Iran, one thing is for sure; things will never be like before again; they believe they have passed the point of no return. Despite the challenges, the decentralized revolution in Iran shows no signs of slowing down. People from all walks of life continue to stand up for their rights and demand a better future for themselves and their families. As the movement continues to grow, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be, but one thing is clear: the people of Iran are determined to fight for their freedom and will not be silenced.
The biggest problem the government currently has is that people are not afraid anymore. And they have done all they could to put the fear back in their heart. Interestingly many of the videos that show how brutally heavily armed police face protestors were taken from the POV of someone on their side! A place where no ordinary citizen could stand, let alone take their phone out and start to film! They purposefully show a barbaric image of themselves while hurting and killing civilians to regrow fear in protesters, but it only makes them more fearless. The armed-to-the-teeth suppressive forces seem more fearful these days than the protesters.
The main worry is how far a brutal government will go to suppress its people; sadly, they have proven they would go far. They have already started executing arrested protestors.
This article was written as part of Issue #2 of the WomenLifeFreedom, which after publication, will be available to download for free from the following Twitter handle: