The Iranian people burned campaign posters and vandalized Tehran with pro-democracy messages as they organized an unprecedented public boycott of what citizens said is a sham presidential election this week.
“Our vote is regime change and Yes to a democratic Iran,” was scrawled on walls in Tehran, along with other messages like, “we will not vote for murderers.” Posters of the regime’s favored candidate were vandalized and burned in the days leading up to the election, video footage provided to The Daily Wire showed.
Video clips filmed on Friday by supporters of the resistance inside Iran and provided to The Daily Wire show scenes of dozens of deserted polling sites across the country, including in the country’s capital.
Faced with what appeared to be abysmal turnout, the Iranian Interior Ministry announced Friday evening that polling station hours would be extended late into the night until 2 a.m. or as long as voters showed up at polling places.
The presidential candidate favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime is judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who was involved in the mass executions of Iranian political prisoners in 1988. Raisi, who is all but guaranteed to win, was sanctioned for his role in the executions by former President Donald Trump in 2019. The candidate’s sordid past appears to be one of the chief factors lending strength to the resistance movement this election cycle.
Popular uprisings in December 2017 and November 2019 that turned deadly, killing hundreds of protesters, appear to have caused Khamenei to support loyalists like Raisi as he works to strengthen his control.
Protesting elections in their country, which has been on the U.S. state terror sponsor list for decades, is nothing new to Iranians, but the movement has a different energy this time — they are no longer hiding their identities.
Mothers and fathers of young Iranians killed by the regime for peacefully protesting posted video messages to social media of themselves calling for an election boycott. The bereaved parents held pictures of their dead children as they introduced themselves by name and condemned the election as rigged.
“I won’t vote. My vote is regime change,” said one mother, Iran Allahyari, whose son, Mehrdad Moinfar, was killed in November 2019 by the regime for participating in a peaceful protest.
“I will not turn a blind eye to the unjust murder of my only son,” she said. “They destroyed my life.”
An Iranian father, Reza Salmanzadeh, recorded a video message saying he is the father of Mahdi, who was “martyred in the path of freedom for Iran.”
“In the past 42 years, I have never voted for the Islamic Republic, and I will never vote for it,” the father said in the video. “And I will do everything to overthrow this sinister Islamic Republic regime and its leaders.”
“Long live freedom. Shame on the Islamic Republic,” he said.
The Iranian city of Sadra reportedly ordered shopkeepers to vote in the presidential election, threatening them with unemployment if they refuse.
Khamenei cast his vote early Friday morning in Tehran and urged Iranians to turn out to vote.
“Each vote counts … come and vote and choose your president,” the Supreme Leader said. “This is important for the future of your country.”
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, who leads the Iranian political resistance group the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) along with her husband Massoud Rajavi, called the successful boycott “the greatest political and social blow” to Khamenei and the ruling theocracy.
“The boycott proved and showed the world that the Iranian people’s only vote is to overthrow this medieval regime. The nationwide boycott is the groundswell of the martyrs’ sacrifices and is a reflection of the Iranian people’s great campaign for justice,” Rajavi said Friday in a statement.
“The religious dictatorship is in a downward spiral and must be swept aside. Emerging out of this sham election will be a regime that is more disgraced, vulnerable, and fragile,” she said.
Rajavi predicted that “the henchman of the 1988 massacre” will likely perpetrate more crimes, but the regime will ultimately be overthrown by the Iranian people.
“Freedom and a democratic republic are the Iranian people’s inalienable rights,” she concluded.
More than 59 million of Iran’s 80 million residents are eligible to vote, but 12 hours after polls opened only 37% had cast their ballots, according to semi-official news agency Fars.
By contrast, in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, 67% of all citizens age 18 and older reported voting, a record turnout, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Less than 10% of eligible voters actually cast their ballot, according to the MEK, the Iranian opposition network that organized much of the resistance activity. The MEK said its assessment was based on the reports of more than 1,200 reporters of Iran National Television, the satellite television channel run by the Iranian resistance, who reported from 400 Iranian cities and recorded more than 3,500 video clips at polling stations.
Iran approved a total of seven presidential candidates for its presidential election this year. Iran’s Guardian Council, however, barred several prominent allies of current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is prohibited by term limits from seeking office again, from running to replace him. One of the candidates said he was rejected because his daughter lives in the U.S.
In 2017, when Rouhani won re-election against Raisi, the estimated turnout was unexpectedly high at 70 percent.
Rouhani has long represented a more moderate alternative to the Iranian theocracy and urged Iranians to vote on Friday. Many of his promises never came to fruition under Khamenei’s rule, prompting citizens to seek a more radical change through boycotting the election.
Ali Safavi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political coalition calling for the replacement of the regime in Iran.
The boycott and protests this election cycle are “unprecedented” because they are “not spontaneous” but “very well organized,” Safavi told The Daily Wire.
“I think the sentiment among Iranians is reflected in one of the most prevalent chants that you hear on the Iranian street even today, where they say, ‘the enemy is right here, they lie when they say it’s America,'” Safavi said.
Savafi also said he believes Iranians do not want to see the U.S. sanctions on Iran lifted despite the crippling effect they have had on Iran’s economy. Any relief provided will be absorbed by the regime and not be used to improve the livelihood of everyday Iranians, according to Savafi.
He urged the Biden administration to “reject this sham which the regime tries to sell to the Western world as an election.”
“More protests are certainly looming on the horizon, and they will be much more ferocious and widespread than previous ones,” Savafi predicted.
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