Iran’s New Revolution

Written By: Chris Ploumidis

Written in December, 2022

The recent death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s so-called morality police has sent shockwaves across the country and launched protests in solidarity abroad, worsening Iran’s already unstable political climate. These protests have shed a light on the persistent human rights abuses that Iran has committed, especially in the wake of Ebrahim Raisi’s hard-line conservative regime. Mass mobilization in the country, compounded with the already precarious political and economic situation, could cause a total upheaval in Iran’s current leadership. The Islamic Republic of Iran has quashed uprisings in the past during the Green Movement of 2009, but current protests are unlike anything Tehran has seen in the past four decades since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. 

Masha Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iran’s Kurdistan region, died in police custody on Friday, September 16th, in the nation’s capital of Tehran. Initially, Amini was detained for allegedly breaking Iranian laws that require a woman to cover all parts of her hair in public with a hijab. After claims from Amini’s father that his daughter’s death was a result of beating by police were corroborated by eye-witness accounts, protests began during a memorial service in Amini’s hometown and quickly spread to Tehran. Amini became a symbol of martyrdom at the hands of the Republic’s oppressive government, and protests have only ramped up in the weeks following her death. The government’s crackdown has been swift and draconian. At least 234 civilians  have been killed in the past six weeks of protests, according to BBC reports. Other young women like Amini have died becoming symbols in their own right. And these deaths run deep. In a country like Iran, which practices Shia Islam the role of martyrdom runs deep, going all the way back to Imam Hussain’s death in 680 AD. Funeral processions of mourning for these people often break out into demonstrations adding to the cyclical nature of the protests.

Videos of Iranian women burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in protest of the Islamic Republic have gone viral, sparking international attention. Mass demonstrations have spread throughout the country, affecting key economic sectors. In early October, workers at a number of Iranian oil refineries began demonstrations, blocking roads with rocks and echoing support for other protests. It was strikes like these that set the stage for the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that removed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi from power. Could this really be the start of a revolution that deposes Iran’s theocratic government?

These protests are clearly an expression of a larger context of grievances in Iran. The country has experienced economic woes in recent years. Crippling economic sanctions following the US withdrawal from the JCPOA and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have sent the Iranian economy into a tailspin. The inflation rate is at least 60% and the economy has experienced protracted economic stagnation with high unemployment.

It is clear that protesters on the ground want to see an end to the Islamic Republic. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has dismissed protests accusing Israel and the US of fomenting unrest and orchestrating “riots” while offering praise to Iran’s security services cracking down on demonstrators. Khamenei clearly does not want to offer reform and per the IRI’s governing structure remains in control of the armed services, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. One thing is clear, the Islamic Republic of Iran is coming to grips with citizens that want change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s