No, because the repressive and surveillance apparatus of the Islamic Republic is already very extensive. Authoritarian governments around the world – China, Iran, etc. – are massively using artificial intelligence, facial recognition… This is a very worrying development.

With reason. The question of transnational repression carried out by authoritarian governments remains poorly understood, while it is increasingly strong. Iranian-Canadians who campaign for democracy and human rights are monitored and their internet activities spied on. They are either directly intimidated or they are afraid that their family who are still in Iran will be threatened.

The support base for the regime is estimated at 10% to 20% of the population. A tiny minority of Iranians – mostly from working-class or rural backgrounds – are loyal to the regime. The others are indeed financially dependent people. They are either in the civil service or in the Basij – the militia affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards. Some young people pay for their studies this way. Their loyalty is bought. By adding the people in the army, in the police, in the Basij, we arrive at hundreds of thousands of people, who are among other things assigned to surveillance activities which require a lot of manpower.

Canada has clearly taken a stand against the regime, but Iran is not a Canadian foreign policy priority, unlike Ukraine or China. Our trade relations with this country are almost at zero. Nevertheless, there are some 300,000 Iranians of origin in the country, some of whom are very mobilized and who are asking Canada to do more. But the big question is what can be effective rather than purely symbolic.

Direct material support raises the question of the security of demonstrators, who are already targets. Help with encrypted communication – the VPN – may be one avenue. Support for Iranian trade unions is another, but unlike the Islamic Revolution of 1979, one cannot imagine this time that nationwide strikes will bring down the regime. The unions have been suppressed and they do not have the means to financially support their members who would go on strike. The logistical question also remains, because from a practical point of view, how to help the unions or the dissidents in general? One cannot simply enter Iran with briefcases full of cash. There is also the idea of ​​sponsoring political prisoners, as some parliamentarians have done in Ottawa and which could also be done by members of the Quebec government. When the attention is drawn to a prisoner, it can be assumed that it can spare him execution. But the fact remains that these sponsorships are made on a case-by-case basis and that there are at least 15,000 prisoners currently in Iran.

Leading opposition figures in exile are effectively calling on Western governments, including Canada, to welcome dissidents. This demand was reiterated by a very prominent group of dissidents who were in Ottawa three weeks ago. Among them were Reza Pahlavi (the son of the last Shah of Iran), Hamed Esmaelion (a Toronto dentist who lost his wife and daughter on the plane that was shot down in 2020 by a missile launched by the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) and Nazanin Boniadi, a very committed actress who starred in the Homeland series.

Some dissidents believe his downfall is imminent, but I don’t. The fight will be long. At the same time, the regime is weakened and it would be wrong to hope for a return to the status quo before September. The protests will continue.