Iranian citizens "are in the middle of our revolution," according to a leading Iranian journalist and human rights activist.
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident living in the United States and key figure in the protest movement that has swept across the Islamic Republic over the past five months, said in an interview that the demonstrations have transformed into a full-blown revolution that aims to depose the hardline regime.
"We are in the middle of our revolution," Alinejad told Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) in the latest episode of his podcast, an advance copy of which was provided to the Washington Free Beacon. "It’s not just because of the hijab [head covering]. Now, it’s beyond that. Iranians are actually chanting against the dictator."
"This is just the beginning and we want to end the gender apartheid regime," Alinejad said.
Her remarks are the latest sign that the protests in Iran—which have been heavily censored by the Iranian regime in a bid to dimish world attention—have become a referendum on the regime itself. They began last year after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was murdered by the regime’s morality policy for not properly wearing her head scarf. The protests began with women and young people taking to the streets to protest Amini’s death, but now Iranians of all ages are calling for the regime’s demise.
"It’s not just the young generation, it's not just small cities, it’s everywhere and it’s mixed," Alinejad told Lankford. "People are united. This is the first time in our history."
Iran, Alinejad said, has killed more than 700 people since the protests started and have imprisoned more than 19,000. "These are not numbers, these are not statistics, 50 of them are on death row, 5 of them got hanged," she said. Government security forces also have "raped woman in prison" and blinded others, according to Alinejad.
"The level of brutality and crackdown is very intense," she said. "The more the Iranian regime kills, the more people get determined to bring this barbaric regime down."
Alinejad herself has been targeted by the Iranian regime for her role in publicly promoting and fostering the protests from abroad. Iranian agents attempted to kidnap her in 2021 and she is now living in a safehouse protected by the FBI.
Alinejad called on the Biden administration to take a more forceful stance in support of the protesters. She said the administration’s continued pursuit of diplomacy with the hardline regime over a revamped version for the 2015 nuclear accord is undermining its support for human rights in Iran.
"This is the time that President Biden should announce an Iran policy so that we know this administration’s policy," she said.
While the Biden administration has issued new sanctions on Iranian leaders for their human rights crimes, it is still pursuing a new nuclear deal.
"The U.S. government comes and says we want to negotiate with those that we already sanctioned," Alinejad said. "That’s not acceptable."
Lankford, who just returned from a congressional trip to the Middle East, said he was told by regional leaders that Iran is the number one destabilizing force.
In meetings with officials from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Israel, "the consistent theme that came up from every single country was, Iran is destabilizing the region," Lankford said. "It was a remarkable conversation that I didn’t expect to be as loud as it was. But every single country in that region, they kept saying, ‘We would be a lot more stable as a region and a country if Iran wasn’t trying to meddle in our affairs and actually bring active terrorism to us.’"