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Islamic Republic And The Current Turmoils In Iran

Guest article

Image credits: Shropshire star

"Revolutions are not stories. They are not poems. Revolutions are not texts nor are they primarily textual in nature. Revolutions are events. They are projects and processes, made and sustained by people insisting on living lives of dignity"

-Jack Shenker

Every nightfall in Iran has consorted with thousands of people pouring into the streets for protests since last September. The morose atmosphere suddenly gets vital as the jubilant crowds chant the slogans of a new tomorrow. The death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahza Amini, is the latest trigger for this decades-old-ongoing protest against the Iran Republic. A victim of the state's tyranny, Mahsa has become the figurehead of the new political upheaval that is not only confronting a despotic-autocratic government but also what is dissected to be patriarchy manifested in its most violent form. The incident has carved deep into the collective psyche of the nation limning a sorrowful picture of all the ambiguity of Iranian society. Does this new movement presage the prospects of a coming revolution, or what it has in store is the same fate as all the previous protests that was vigorously suppressed by the state?

'Women, Life, Liberty'- A Fight For Identity

"I have seen real resistance, especially from the teenagers and youths who are attending these protests. This generation is brave and without fear. They know they might end up in prison, they know they might be arrested, tortured and even get killed, yet they insist on participating in this revolution"

Like Zilan, a majority of the old generation of Iran has nothing but praise for the nation's youth. In spite of the lingering shadows and the watchful eyes of the authoritarian state, the protests in Iran garnered a throng of people. The inception of all the ongoing events occurred on September 22, as the bitter story of Mahza Amini broke out to the public. She was arrested in September for a perceived breach of the Hijab head-covering rules by Iran's 'Morality Police' and later died due to what is alleged to be 'custodial torture'. The death of the Kurdish women created a groundswell that has now been transformed into a large-scale revolt

The abrupt cascade of recent uprisings has alarmed the authorities as much as to deploy IRGC( Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)- an armed force, sworn to defend the purity of the Islamic revolution( or The Republic). The protests started in the hometown of Mahsa, Saqqez, and rapidly spread into all the provinces of Iran. The current movement is unique in multiple ways, as the protests are primarily driven by women across the nation in addition to its diversity in demographics. This is contrary to the prior protests against the republic, which witnessed a predominance of lower socio-economic strata. The streets of Tehran chanted 'Women, Life, Liberty', making a powerful statement against the decades-old-ongoing oppression of women by the theo-fascist state. The banners, that said 'Death to the Dictator', were raised at several corners of the country- an anathema anytime before the revolt. Women took off their hijabs and burned them in bonfires in the protests which spanned gender and ethnicity.

The incongruous events that have put the authorities in angst might have been catalysed by numerous integrators, Mahza Amini's death being among them. Apart from the economic crisis the country was going through, there was growing tension against systemic and endemic corruption, mismanagement, and multiple sanctions imposed by the International community. The ineptitude of the state in breaking the impasse on the JCPOA( Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) despite the recent endeavours of resuscitating the deal by Washington, made people seemingly frustrated. The downfall of the deal, which resolved the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear energy program was a big setback to the nation which tried to stabilise its relationship with the United States.

The movement that was burgeoned after the death of Mahza, is now warring against the Islamic Republic's neglect of individual rights and freedom. The system that severely repressed human rights and put the people through a long litany of grievances is now clashing against the young generation that resists the republic's extremist interpretation of Shia Islam. Notwithstanding everything novel about the resistance, the scope of this political upheaval to oust the Islamic republic is not reassuring. The state's persistent oppression of civil activists and its brutal way of dealing with dissent foreshadow an eventual let-down.

The pro-democratic 'Green movement', triggered by allegations of fraudulence in the 2009 presidential election is the epitome of the state's inhumane way of dealing with defiance. The protests resulted in more than a dozen deaths-including Neda Agha-Soltan- who became an instant symbol of the anti-government protests. Despite the sacrifices, the movement was vigorously suppressed in the end by the state. Later, in 2017, the demonstrations that broke out in Mashhad, the second largest city in Iran, over economic hardships and corruption, also met a bitter end with the death of 20 people and more than 3000 arrests.

Akin to the manner it subdued the other major demonstrations in the decade, the state put on severe restrictions on the web as the Mahsa Amini protest erupted; a venture to disorganize the protestors and divert international scrutiny. The lack of credible sources or authentic media makes it arduous for international communities to attempt a possible intervention. Despite the comments of the Supreme Leader of Iran: he was "deeply heartbroken” by the death of Amini naming the incident “tragic”, the state is dealing with demonstrators with military crackdowns. Hijab seems to be the way the Islamic Republic is holding its line of theological authority, subduing any democratic impulse with its unappealing interpretation of Shia Islam, further portending the grander ambitions of the 1979 revolution.

The 1979 Revolution and The Islamic Republic of Iran

The current regime of the Islamic republic was established in Iran after the 1979-Islamic Revolution. Prior to the revolution, the Pahlavi monarchy ruled the state with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the last shah of the dynasty. Under his regime, the country witnessed a far-reaching series of reforms, which resulted in the aggressive modernisation of the nation. These reforms, better known as the 'White Revolution', caused the redistribution of wealth to Iran's working class and the deconstruction of Iran's feudalist customs. The Shah, a modernist and reformist, established a vote of rights for Iranian women and the right to stand for public office despite the opposition by clerics. He successfully established Iran as a geopolitical power by capitalising on the oil boom. Nonetheless, his antics of suppressing political liberties, free press, and independent political parties fomented discord among even the supporters of the monarchy and laid the ground for the later rebellion.

In 1979, a coalition of interest groups under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini- a leader of the Islamic clergy, led a rebellion against the Pahlavi monarchy and the Shah. The movement vowed to end the monarchy and gain political liberties. A lofty egalitarian to the public, Khomeini emphasised the movement to be pan-Islamic and gained the support of all the echelons of the society. The rebellion(Islamic revolution) ousted the monarchy and established the current Islamic Republic as Ayatollah Khomeini became the first supreme leader of the new state. Carrying the ambitions of propagating the revolution beyond Iranian borders, the Islamic Republic inherited the Pahlavi state, but not its worldview.

Image credits: History Today

Since then, a major supplier of unrest in the Middle East, the state capitalised on the conflicts and interventions in countries like Syria and Yemen to set up its network of influence, further destabilising these countries in the process. The rise of Iran endowed the region with a pandemonium of recurrent friction as the Shia state opposed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Leading the revolution beyond the Iranian borders, Tehran, allegedly, became the benefactor of many armed-extremist organizations, Hezbollah- a Lebanon-based Shia terrorist group being among them. The intervention of Iran in Syria caused a shadow war with Israel as the military presence on the border of the state which has publically called out for the destruction of the country alerted the Jewish state. The Islamic republic of Iran vehemently dismissed the initial objectives of the rebellion leading the nation to a new age. The theocratic state forced a depraved and inflexible rendition of the Islamic code of conduct on the public, which raised further discontent against the republic, among people.

Iran's earlier foreign policy of isolating itself from the international community has gradually changed over the years. Even though the state's policies were never ad-hoc, it has vacillated its foreign stances conforming to domestic outcries. Iran has unreservedly voiced its hostility against the United States after the revolution, and the US approach towards Iran has always straddled between haughty and plain hostility and sporadic attempts at detente. Even under Hassan Rouhani as the president- a neoliberal centrist and reformist, the nation's attempts for a modus vivendi with the global powers eventually crumbled putting the country in an economic crisis. Iran, like any other state, has a national interest that it pursues. However, its constant attempts at portraying itself as a victim of western perfidy, and the nation's ineptitude in winning diplomatic favours have never resonated well with the Iranian public.

Dying Embers and The Tomorrow Phantasm

As mentioned, The Islamic revolution in 1979 was not solely an Islamist movement, but also an aftermath of all the ambiguity in Iranian society. A cogent corollary, the reign of the Islamic republic has since faced many backlashes and criticisms concerning several of the state's policies. The Republic went as far as to rewrite the civil liberty laws that were instilled by the monarchy and replaced them with regressive and mistimed codes that invaded civilian rights. Despite such wacky moves, the state was able to handle the public fury by utilising the influence of the ideological aspects that came with the revolution. The promise of raising Iran into a capital position inside the Muslim world, and the arguments of the "greater good" has influenced a good proportion of the radical Iranian society. The Republic opted for an analogous tactic during allegations of Human rights violations in the Iran-Iraq war. Henceforth, how the current protests are dealt with brutal military crackdowns can be interpreted to be inheriting its tenacity and confidence from the historical retrospective of a successful oppressor.

The current and second Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei is about to ring down the curtain on his 33-year-long reign, and the fall of his state and the long-cherished revolution will be the last sight he covets to witness. The state will put all the efforts to stand its ground, with a notorious military at its disposition. Nonetheless, the unrelenting youth that is pouring into the streets of Iran is raising the demands of a new world. They are braced and spurred by people around the globe. The bristling and dispensing effect of social media and a generation that can jump across the fences of web restriction will only strengthen the movement. The capriciously malevolent military, and its proud parent-The Republic, may have to put away its contentious front for a while to ease the situations regardless of its poor history with the former.'

The dominant 'She-factor' in these protests contains the potential to be the game-changer of this whole scenario. The leadership of women in the current movement has conferred the situation further dimensions, thereby putting Iran under the global lens. Beyond the peripheries of civil rights violation of a theocratic state, the world has learned to look at the situation in the light of gender and identity. A system that is filled with men, entrenching strict dress codes for women in public spaces can only be met with contempt and resentment from anywhere around the world. Despite a history of antagonising the world powers, it will be unlikely for the state to completely slur over the demands of women as the nation is now in a phase of patching up its wounded diplomacy. The Republic may be forced to ease the mandatory dress code in the near future as the protests in Iran have now become a confrontation against the Patriarchy.

Notwithstanding the multiple integrators that are powering the new revolts, their capability of causing a regime fall can only be analysed sceptically. The Islamic Republic is claimed only to be a means of the Islamic Revolution that started in 1979. Henceforth, the scenario of the Republic putting the national interest before the ambitions of revolution is hard to be envisaged.


The large-scale revolts over the death of Mahza Amini in the Islamic Republic of Iran reflect the oppression and patriarchy rooted in our societal structures that have to be contained rather than confronted. The death toll in protests continues to be increasing, and another political upheaval in Iran is nearing its apogee. The state is showing off its belligerence despite the warnings by world leaders. Although it is unlikely for the state to perdure with its steadfast stance, the way Iran is dealing with its women and dissent will only isolate the nation more from the global powers. Whether Iran will soon break away from the overarching premises of a bygone era, and appeal to a world that transcends the barriers of gender and faith will be marked by the climax of these ongoing protests.


By Dhanish KT (Guest Writer)

Dhanish is a third-year student pursuing B.Sc(Hons) Physics from Hindu College.



1. Prof. Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, IRAN AND THE WORLD AFTER

ROUHANI, ME-Review Vol.5 (2017-2018)

2. Fakhreddin Soltani, Reza Ekhtiari Amiri, Foreign Policy of Iran after Islamic Revolution, ResearchGate


COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE , World Politics, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Apr., 1986), pp. 383-414

4. Ali Ansari, Kasra Aarabi, Ideology and Iran’s Revolution: How 1979 Changed the World, tony blair institute for global change

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Jan 07, 2023


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