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Why Protests Will Change Iran Forever

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The 2022 Iranian protests with the radical slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” shocked the regime in Tehran. There are ten distinct reasons why the current protests in Iran are unprecedented and will have profound and sweeping implications for the future and sustainability of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Radical changes in slogans and demands

In previous revolutions and protests, notably in 2009, the main demands were to reform the system or to recover the votes stolen during the elections. In protests in 2017 and 2019, demands were linked to better living conditions and the economy. This time, in 2022, the protests are centered on the murder of Zhina Amini by the morality police, as well as the abolition of the forced hijab, which is known as the main pillar of the system as well as its identity. The request is not to reform the system, but to change the system. It’s a turning point.

The predominant role of women

This cycle of the Iranian revolution has attracted the attention of public opinion and international media due to the inclusion of women’s demands. It also led to the participation of all sections of Iranian society. The slogan “women, life and freedom” is chanted in all regions of Iran. In the streets, universities, media and social networks, women and girls are the main actors in these protests.

The rise of the new generation

One of the most striking features of the current Iranian revolution is that the majority of protesters in different regions and cities are young people under the age of twenty-five. These young people are considered the third generation of Iranians born after the 1979 revolution, and they demand the total rejection of the system.

Mobilization and combat experience

In past revolutions and massive protests, such as the national uprisings of 2009, 2017 and 2019, there was a kind of “softness” in confronting the police, security forces, Revolutionary Guards, Basij, etc. . have no sympathy for these forces and condemn them in the strongest possible way. This time, the demonstrators clash with the security forces, which leads to an upsurge in violence.

Unity of ethnic, religious and cultural groups

This revolution saw national solidarity between all nations, ethnic groups and cultures, which was not the case before. In the past, there were divisions between ethno-religious groups, regions, as well as major cities and suburbs of Iran. In this series of protests, we see similarities in protesters’ demands as they transcend limited regional, geographic, territorial or even gender claims. This time, the protests have become an unprecedented challenge for the Iranian government due to the solidarity of various communities and groups in the country.

Reactions from public figures

What distinguishes this demonstration from other rounds of demonstrations and revolutions in Iran is that this time there was a wave of outrage against the government, its institutions and the behavior of the security forces by sportsmen, artists, celebrities, etc. This has led even figures close to the government to openly express their support, join the protesters on social media and even participate in the demonstrations.

Broad support from the Iranian diaspora

Another distinctive feature of the 2022 protests is the large number of demonstrations and rallies outside Iran in support of the Iranian protests. The demonstrators attacked embassies and centers of the Islamic Republic. It is also interesting to note that the opposition outside Iran, which had never been united with each other on the organization and even the slogans and the demands, this time has a demand: the victory of the revolution and the collapse of this system.

The rise of university students

After years of passivity, silence and repression among university students following the Iranian authorities’ success in ending protests in 1999 and 2009, students from famous universities and different cities have returned to protests. Some university professors expressed their support for their students. University professors demand the release of their detained students, otherwise they threaten not to return to class. Some teachers have also resigned due to the crackdown on protesters.

The power and use of social media

The way social media is being used to organize and express protests is unprecedented. Images, slogans, symbols and clips are released in various foreign languages, informing global audiences. This caused the Islamic Republic of Iran to dramatically slow down or even cut internet connections. This led to an outpouring of foreign sympathy and support for the protests, even prominent politicians on Twitter to condemn the Islamic Republic’s crackdown and use the hashtag (#mahsaamini). Social media networks have helped protesters share information and inform the world, communicate with each other, and determine the time and location of protests.

Iranian self-determination

In the past, protesters often asked for help from the United States and other democratic countries, but this time they found that only they could change their destiny. This is seen as an unprecedented turning point and the end of the hope of being liberated by a foreign power.

Conclusion

The current protests in Iran have no other leader than the people themselves. Protests are no longer centralized, no longer confined to major cities as they are spread everywhere geographically. Moreover, in this wave of protests, protesters no longer believe government propaganda about protests, such as allegations of outside interference. Another important factor is that the question of the succession of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his illness gave people hope for the success of the change of the current political system and even the end of the regime of Wilayat al-Faqih.

The revolutionary process of overthrowing the system, or at least radical change, seems to have started quickly inside Iran, which is very different from past protests. This is reflected in the radical slogans and leadership of Iranian women and youth. What has been observed so far is that the division between the authorities and the majority of Iranian society has deepened and protests have started where the Islamic Republic was considered to be strongest.

Dr. Parwez Rahim Qadr is a senior lecturer in international relations at Salahaddin University in Erbil. He is an expert in Iranian affairs.

Kamaran Palani is a lecturer in international relations at Salahaddin University in Erbil, a researcher at MERI and an associate researcher at Al Sharq Strategic Research. Palani holds a Ph.D. from Leiden University (Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, 2021). He is the author of The de facto statehood of Kurdistan: a new explanatory framework (Routledge, 2022).

Picture: Reuters.