On September 22, 2023, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, showed a map of “the New Middle East” and implied that the entire occupied territory of Palestine should belong to Israel and “the Palestinians should have no veto over any new peace treaties with Arab states.” That speech angered Palestinians and their supporters and was followed by a sudden attack on October 7 by Hamas militants against the Israeli military posts and some settlers in the occupied territories near the Gaza Strip’s border.
In the meantime, the women’s rights campaign of “Woman, Life, and Freedom” against the clerical regime in Tehran had reached a high level. On May 2, two journalists, Niloofar Hamedi, Elaheh Mohammadi, who broke the news of Amini’s death resulting from her arrest, along with Narges Mohammadi, who wrote about Amini’s funeral, were named as the laureates of the 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Likewise, on October 6, Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was awarded the 2023 Noble Prize for Peace. Moreover, On October 1, 2023, a 17-year-old Iranian girl, Armita Geravand was allegedly accused of not complying with the Islamic dress code and suddenly fell into a coma on a Tehran metro train and was immediately hospitalized. These events, following the most significant opposition to the Islamic government after Mahsa Amini’s death in September 2022, put the clerics in Tehran in their weakest position since the revolution. Some Persian language media in the West used these events to flare another wave of campaigns against the Islamic regime.
However, the campaign was suddenly dampened after Israel retaliated with a war of genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in which, as of this writing, about 8,000 Palestinians have been killed, of which more than one-third are children. While the media outlets in the West expressed sympathy for the Israelis killed and called the Palestinians terrorists, millions of people around the world, including in the US and Europe, have come out to the streets in condemnation of the war of genocide on Palestinians.
Consequently, the clerics in Tehran feel their political support has increased. In a speech on October 17, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said if Israel’s crimes in Gaza do not stop, the Muslims around the world and Islamic resistance forces will be unleashed to support Palestinians, and that cannot be prevented from happening. Moreover, on October 26, 2023, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who spoke in an emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly, said, “The entire land of Palestine, from the sea to the river, belongs only to the original Palestinians, including Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and no institution or country has the right or can give any part of it to another person or group.” He added, “It is our home, and West Asia is our region.” He further stated, “The United States, as the unwavering and permanent supporter of the occupying regime, is the main cause of the failures of the United Nations, especially the Security Council, in upholding the rights of the Palestinians.”  These statements strengthened political support for the Palestinians’ cause. Subsequently, the UN General Assembly issued a resolution calling for ‘immediate, durable humanitarian truce.  However, the resolution is not binding and cannot stop the attack on the Palestinians. As of October 29, Israeli ground forces have invaded the Gaza Strip and are killing the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, some Iranians believe the genocide in the Gaza Strip has given the Islamic government a cover to continue crackdowns against its internal political opponents. On October 14, 2023, the Iranians were shocked by hearing the murder of Daryoush Mehrjui, a prominent filmmaker, and his wife, Vahideh Mohammadifar, who were found stabbed to death in their villa near Tehran. People blamed the murder on the Islamic regime’s sponsored killings similar to those that had happened in the past to other critics of the regime. The government, however, claimed the murder was committed by 4 Afghan juveniles, one of whom had worked for the filmmaker as a gardener some time ago. Previously, a video of Dariush Mehrjui and his wife appeared on social media in which Mehrjui asked his wife to remove her headscarf and said, “The headscarf is done, finished, come with me… Also, Mehrjui had been angry with the government because it prevented some of his films from being shown due to their contents criticizing the Islamic government policies. Furthermore, On October 22, the government judiciary sentenced the two journalists, Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, to seven and six years in prison, respectively. Also, on October 28, the government finally confirmed that Armita Geravand had died after being in a coma. The next day, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, herself a former political prisoner, along with some others who attended Armitas’ Funeral, were arrested and taken to prison.
While political Islam has been faced with severe antagonistic campaigns, the war of genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has again strengthened its ideology. Some observers speculate that the British government, a traditional supporter of political Islam, through its regional proxy, Qatar, which has friendly relations with the clerics in Tehran, is taking advantage of the situation to strengthen the Islamic government to prevent other major competitors’ influence in the country.
Akbar E. Torbat ([email protected]) is the author of “Politics of Oil and Nuclear Technology in Iran,” Palgrave Macmillan, (2020), https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030337650 . He received his Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas.
 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/three-imprisoned-iranian-women-journalists-awarded-2023-unesco/guillermo-cano-world-press-freedom