The beleaguered Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime, Ali Khamenei, is engineering another sinister consolidation of his control, marking a perilous chapter for the ruling theocracy.

With the regime gearing up for its so-called parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections in March, the decision to bar long-standing loyalists, such as former President Hassan Rouhani, acts as a stark warning of Tehran’s growing instability. This exclusion extends even to notorious figures like Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a former Minister of Justice involved in the horrific political prisoner massacre of 1988.

Since its inception in 1979, the theocracy, steeped in election manipulation, fraud, and corruption, has ruthlessly extinguished even the faintest flicker of peaceful political activity. The Iranian people, burdened by the weight of suppressed rights over four long decades, have chosen to wage an all-encompassing resistance against a regime that inexorably contracts into a tightening grip of tyranny.

In the Machiavellian run-up to the March 1 elections, where the fate of the Parliament (Majlis) and the Assembly of Experts hangs in the balance, Khamenei’s ongoing power play not only reveals a shrewd maneuver to cement his faction’s dominion and engineer a flawless succession process but also underscores his intent to further close ranks in the face of an inevitable uprising that is looming. Khamenei has emphatically declared that even the slightest deviation in the regime’s behavior heralds the demise of the theocracy itself, highlighting his determination to maintain a tight grip on power and suppress any potential challenges to his authority.

The systematic disqualification of candidates, choreographed by the unelected Guardian Council, underscores the regime’s unyielding commitment to absolute clerical rule (the principle of velayat-e faqih). Since the inaugural presidential elections in January 1980, the regime has steadily disqualified an increasing number of even loyal candidates, creating an impenetrable facade of unity. Since 1997, only a minuscule average of between 0.4% to 1.6% have been granted approval to run for president, exposing the disguise of democratic participation.

Amid the regime’s relentless attempts to coerce participation in what can only be deemed as sham elections, voter turnout languishes at historically low levels. The 2020 Majlis election turnout, marked by an official announcement of barely exceeding 47 percent (though the actual figure was closer to 11 percent), serves as a stark testament to the Iranian people’s repudiation of the ruling theocracy. This stark contrast is especially significant considering that the regime had boasted a 75 percent turnout in all previous elections. The 2016 Assembly of Experts election, witnessing an unprecedented 80 percent disqualification rate, amplified the erosion of the regime’s authority.

The challenges confronting the regime, from economic distress to global isolation, internal discord, and the rise of organized opposition such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Resistance Units, paint a bleak picture for Khamenei. The primary objective of the Resistance Units is clear: to break the shackles of fear and repression, mobilizing the Iranian youth to confront the IRGC and facilitating another nationwide uprising which the regime deathly fears. Despite arrests and casualties, these units have grown in numbers, maturity, and operational capabilities, playing a pivotal role in organizing protests and leading uprisings. Their expanding activities not only defy the regime but also inspire others to challenge the IRGC and suppressive institutions.

In 2022, despite a brutal crackdown resulting in 30,000 arrests, at least 750 fatalities, and numerous disappearances, the youth defiantly fought back against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Regime authorities, forced to acknowledge the deaths of several hundred forces and injuries numbering in the thousands among the suppressive forces, find themselves on incredibly shaky ground, which explains the staggering rise in the number of executions under Ebrahim Raisi, 1,777 since he took office, 864 in 2023 that includes dozens of dissidents and women, and 88 since January 2024.

Aligned with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Iranian people’s recourse to rebellion and resistance against tyranny is not only justified but an imperative. The declaration explicitly states, “It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

In the face of a cruel dictatorship, the Iranian people assert their right to unseat the mullahs. Internationally, the untenable practice of appeasing this regime, enabling repression and mass atrocities, while raising the specter of nuclear proliferation and regional conflict, can no longer be defended. The time has come for the West to adopt an unequivocally firm stance, resonating with the Iranian people’s collective call for the regime’s overthrow and acknowledging their inherent right to resist tyranny through organized and principled resistance.

As the Iranian regime hurtles toward an imminent quagmire, global resolve must be marshaled to ensure that the resounding voice of the Iranian people, yearning for freedom and justice, reverberates far beyond the confines of Tehran’s oppressive regime. Change in Iran appears closer than ever before.