Protests In Iran

ByShahmir Kazi

works in the private sector with interest in socio-political affairs


October 2, 2022

Protests In Iran

Shahmeer Kazi describes a fast deteriorating situation

The current spate of protests in Iran has entered its second week and is showing no signs of abating. On the contrary the fury of the populace is increasing by the day and it is now acknowledged that the public outrage witnessed is the most serious challenge Iran’s government has confronted since the Green Movement protests in 2009. A series of challenges facing the clerical Iranian regime: widening frustration over social restrictions, outrage over economic collapse and mismanagement and seething anger at the spiritual guide Ali Khamenei and an extremely insensitive religious ruling establishment having no regard for public needs have now converged into a crisis of legitimacy for the country that is at odds with the rest of the world for good over four decades.

Despite weeks of demonstrations that have spread across the country as the death toll has risen, the protests continue to be leaderless, with some of the loudest and most visible proponents of the protests living in exile as the government has restricted internet access at home. Blocking access to communication portals is a self-defeating measure as there are plenty of channels through which messages could be conveyed to the inside the country as well as outside the world.

It is gradually recognised that this is an indigenous Iranian movement that is hugely mobilised by ordinary Iranians living inside the country who have grown sick of malgovernance. It is however pointed out that a figurehead would be necessary to both negotiate change with the government as well as internally lead the movement itself and the absence of such a person or a body is massively aiding the sitting government that has primarily survived owing to its monopoly on power.

Wide Range Of Protests In Iran

Though the protests have a wide range of grievances, going beyond the compulsory hijab and the brutality of the state’s security apparatus but it also remains unclear whether there are members within the Iranian government who understand the stakes at hand and are willing to push for significant change within the existing structure of power.

The protests erupted after the death in police custody of 22-year old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini that spread across the country. Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran when she was arrested by morality police who took issue with the way she had veiled her hair. While the police maintain she died of natural causes, her family say she was tortured and killed.

The morality police have long been a source of contention in Iran but the clerical regime considers it as one of its source of strength and keeps on supporting it despite strong opposition. It is mandated to strictly enforce Islamic dress code and punishes women dressed in western dress particularly the ones not wearing hijab. The morality police are widely feared and their vans parked outside public streets had become a symbol of terror since decades.

The ruling clerical regime paid no heed to public protestations about the excesses committed by the morality police and consistently justified its existence on account of Islamic injunctions. The opponents claimed that the morality police have become lightning conductor for people’s rage as morality police have no human, moral, logical and even legal justification.

Islamic Revolution

The onslaught of rigid Islamic code of conduct became part of everyday life right after the Islamic revolution in 1979 and one of the first edicts issued was for the women to wear hijabs and in 1983 it became obligatory for women and violation of this rule was punishable with up to 74 lashes though later jail sentences and fines replaced flogging. Under the fanatical rule of Ahmadi-Nejad police was made responsible for looking after social security and launched Guidance Patrol later changed to Moral Security Police that became a horrendous social nuisance.

This widely resented punitive organ of the state became even harder since the new hard-line president of Iran Ebrahim Raisi took office and it was noted that the women drivers arrested on driving offences were required to give written commitments not to violate the law again and to attend hour-long classes on morality.

Car owners also received text messages to go to the morality police centre if there were women in their cars without scarves and their cars were then impounded for up to two months. Many organisations have consistently called for an end to the police’s role in enforcing the rules and have pointed out that religious beliefs are not created by batons, arrests and guidance patrol as people cannot be forced into paradise.

It is widely commented that the current protests are substantially different than earlier protests movements making them more significant. In this context it is mentioned that the earlier waves of protests in Iran in 2019 and 2021 were primarily triggered by economic grievances and it was one of the main reasons protests did not cross over to other segments of society but this is different because what people are really asking for is a more significant kind of political change.

Generate Solidarity

This movement therefore has made it easier to generate solidarity among different social groups. The most significant aspect of the current protests is that is has garnered large numbers of younger Iranians with internet access who have not known an Iran before the Islamic Republic and their protests indicate that they consider the government completely out of sync with the norms of the modern world. Despite efforts to stop Iranians from accessing apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp, videos of people allegedly killed during the protests have been spreading on social media.

Parents of young people killed during the protests have expressed disappointment at the response from the international community. This is precisely the reason that the government feels quite vulnerable and is resorting to using more force though many observers predict protests to escalate as one of Iran’s main teachers’ unions called for a nationwide strike.

Workers’ strikes are sensitive in Iran because they bring back memories of the 1979 revolution, when collective labour action acted as a useful tactic that helped bring down the Shah. It is feared that more strikes may take place and they may end up being mutually reinforcing and could add more pressure on the government.

Protests In Iran

An end to the protests is more likely to come through the use of brute force than concessions. The government has blamed Western media for instigating the protests, alluding to foreign conspiracies. It is believed that this factor will determine how they will be dealt with and if they see this as a security threat and not as an issue of political expedience, then they are more likely to respond by using the tools of their security apparatus as the government has far more capacity for repression than it does for reform at this stage.

It is pointed out that even if authorities make concessions through minor reforms, the bigger question will be “how to get those young women to put their hijabs back on”. A face-saving outcome would be a rollback on the morality police but a complete scrapping of the hijab law is ruled out at the moment. A temporary way out could be to hold a referendum on the hijab issue with the manipulated result that may assuage the frayed tempers. The Weekender


The writ of international law
The writ of international law
M Ali Siddiqi looks at a crucial...
Resurgence of fascism
Resurgence of fascism
M Ali Siddiqi describes a dangerous...
President Xi Jinping
XI on his way to ruling China for life
M Ali Siddiqi talks about apparent...
Governance and equitable distribution of resources
Governance and equitable distribution of resources
M Ali Siddiqi talks about Governance...
The Need For Pakistan
The Need For Pakistan
M A Siddiqi expresses surprise...
The Presence And Essence Of Pakistaniat
The Presence And Essence Of Pakistaniat
M Ali Siddiqi describes a strong...

Get Newsletters


Subscribe Us