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Expert: Iran has Freedom of Speech but No Freedom After Speech

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With slogans like: “leave Syria alone, look at our pockets” and “No Gaza, Not Lebanon, my soul is devoted to Iran,” Iranians took to the streets to demonstrate against the regime’s economic policies.

“It was originally on an economic basis about corruption, about people losing their retirement funds about the rising prices of basic products – like eggs and chicken that  have gone up a few dozen percent – about the fact that the government invests in Syria, in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and not inside Iran,” said Iranian expert, Dr. Thamar Eilam Gindin.

“People who suffered from the earthquake, the last earthquake still live in tents in the middle of the winter – it’s cold, it’s snow,” Gindin told CBN News.

Gindin is a core faculty member at the Middle East program in the Shalem College of Liberal Arts in Jerusalem as well as a research fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf research in Haifa University. She aspires to be Israel's first cultural attaché one day in a free Iran. 

She said what started out as an economic protest against corruption quickly shifted to calls for an end to the Islamic regime.

“We see younger people who just want change, you know, they have social media, they see that people in the West – they don’t even have to see the West – they know that 40 years ago their mothers went with their hair out, they didn’t have compulsory hijab,” Gindin said in reference to Islamic head covering mandatory in Iran.

“They see that the other places people have freedom of speech.  In Iran, there is freedom of speech, there’s no freedom after speech,” she said. “They see that in other places they do have freedom after speech.  They want a secular democracy.  They don’t want this dictatorship.”

Gindin has been involved in following and communicating with Iranians through social media for years.  She said she follows both anti-regime and pro-regime channels.  Because of this, she said, no one really knows what’s going on behind the scenes.

“It depends who you read.  There’s so much information and contradictory information, we know that banks are being burnt and broken, the glass are being broken.  We don’t know who does it,” said Gindin.

Gindin says one of the demands of protestors now is that the government has a referendum to determine if the majority of the country wants an Islamic regime or not.  But she’s doubtful that the government would give in and even if they held a referendum she asked who would guarantee that it’s real.

Gindin is cautious about predicting what will happen in the future but still she said she believes the regime will suppress the demonstrations for now.

“The sentiment is there, both the anger and the hope,” Gindin said of the people. 

“People have gone out in the street in a lot of places and said ‘we don’t want an Islamic Republic.’ Maybe the government will give them a real just referendum.  I doubt (it). 

“I don’t know where and when but there will be more protests and the poorer the people are, the more oppressed they are economically and politically the less they have to lose and once they have nothing to lose, they will go out on the streets again,” she said.

According to Gindin, the people won’t go out in masses now because they believe the result would be worse than in Syria.

“My hope is that some miracle will happen and change will come from above as it did in Russia from (former Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev.  The real question is if it succeeds what happens next, because we’ve seen the Arab Spring; we see Russia today. 

“The people want something better than what they have now.  They want freedom.  I really hope that’s what they’ll have but I really don’t know when and where,” she said.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism, then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91, and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the