Brothers in arms: Syria's opposition say Iran protests echo their own struggle for freedom

Brothers in arms: Syria's opposition say Iran protests echo their own struggle for freedom
Syria's main opposition group have said they stand in solidarity with Iranian people holding demonstrations against the Tehran government, in a struggle they feel mirrors their own.
4 min read
02 Jan, 2018
Syria saw huge protests early in the war [Getty]

Syria's main opposition group said on Tuesday they stand in solidarity with anti-government protesters in Iran, who have held nearly a week of demonstrations against the Tehran regime.

The Syrian National Coalition statement said the opposition "stands by the [Iranian] people" in their struggle and condemned Tehran's "brutal crackdown" against protesters, which has cost at least 21 lives. 

"The Syrian Coalition affirms it stands by the people's rights to freedom, dignity and to live under good-governance and a system of rule that is based on justice, freedom and equality," the opposition group said in a statement.


Protests first erupted in Iran last Thursday, initially calling on Tehran to tackle economic issues such as inflation. Since then, demonstrations have become broadly anti-government in focus and spread across the country.

The bloody crackdown on demonstrations has intensified, in the largest anti-government demonstrations since the 2009 Green Movement.

Iran's leaders at first remained silent on the unrest, but have since made more threatening statements against the protesters and blamed "foreign elements" for the troubles.

"Through repressive policies [Tehran] may succeed in silencing the people for some time, they will fail to address the roots of the problems [nor] eliminate the causes of the deep anger which will continue," the statement added.

In many ways the protests echo the early days of Syria's revolution, where demonstrations began in towns and smaller cities with the security-tight capital Damascus remaining initially quiet.

Tehran's actions also mirror the Syrian regime's brutal suppression of pro-democracy rallies in 2011 with Assad continuously blaming foreign powers for "stirring unrest".

The violence against pro-reform and democracy rallies led to an armed uprising against Assad, as soldiers defected from the army to protect demonstrations which routinely came under fire from regime snipers.

Once Assad's forces were on the ropes, regional ally Iran flew in thousands of militia fighters to bolster the regime and have since been key to Damascus' fight-back against the rebels.

Some of the chants during Iran's anti-government protests have focused on Tehran's costly proxy wars in the region and called for a withdrawal from Syria.

Unemployment and inflation are running high in Iran, while Tehran funnels in cash and fighters to Syria, they say.

"The Iranian regime adopts policies that are aimed at exporting its internal crises by fuelling conflicts and igniting wars, including its provision of direct support for Assad's war against the aspirations of the Syrian people," the Syrian National Coalition stated.

"It has also been complicit in the bloodshed in Syria by sending sectarian militias in Syria, the provision of military support for the Assad regime [and] its persistent pursuit of plans to change the demographic landscape in Syria."


Syria's opposition have accused Iran and the Damascus regime of orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing in opposition areas.

They also claim the Syrian regime has gifted homes and businesses to Tehran-backed militia fighters and Iran's Revolutionary Guards from local civilians in areas recently captured from the rebels.

The Syrian National Coalition went on to accuse Iran of "spreading extremist ideology in other countries such as Iraq and Yemen".

Other opposition figures have also backed the Iranian protesters, and are closely following events.

Assad's regime has backed the Tehran government and accused foreign powers of interfering in Iran, blaming the US and Israel of orchestrating violence, just as they have doggedly alleged claimed during the Syria war.

"Syria expresses full solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran, emphasising the importance of respecting Iran's sovereignty and not interfering in its internal affairs," Syria's state news agency SANA reported.

"Syria expresses strong condemnation and absolute rejection of the stances adopted by the US administration." 

The US has criticised Iran's recent violent crackdown, hinting it will not repeat the same mistakes as the Obama administration during the early years of the Syrian revolution.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has called for an emergency Security Council meeting on the Iran issue, while Tehran looks more focused on suppressing the revolt.

The hint that Washington will take more robust action against Iran would likely be frustrated at the UN Security Council, where Tehran would likely face backing from permanent members Russia and China.

The early parallels to the first days of the seven-year war in Syria can certainly be seen.