They began as a simple protest against a lack of economic growth and stability. Within three days, however, the protests in Iran quickly escalated to encompass the issues of governmental corruption, human rights violations and overall government dissatisfaction against the Islamic Republic, and in particular, its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who has held that title since 1989 after the death of his predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini.
These protests, which began Dec. 28, have been called the largest protests in Iran since the 2009 election protests. However, it is my personal belief that, as massive as the protests are currently, these have the potential to create a revolution greater than the one in 1979.
In order to explain why, it’s best to go back to around 1976, when then Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter spoke at their National Convention on a platform of greater human rights. Iran’s leader at that time, the Shah, whose own power was increased by an American-backed coup in 1953, disagreed with Carter’s stance on human rights. At the same time, a religious and nationalistic movement, led by Khomeini, whose demographic included the youth of Iran, was slowly beginning to rise in Iran, combating the liberalism that had dominated Iran for decades.
Participants of this movement believed that Iran didn’t need America in order to survive, nor did they believe that Iran would survive if they were not in touch with their Iranian roots. As such, when the protests began, these religious groups were front and center, leading the charge against the government, who believed in the antithesis of what they did. As a result of these protests, in 1979, the current Islamic Republic, led by Ruhollah Khomeini, was established, leading to de-Westernization and a hostility that has persisted to this day.
The protests that have taken over Iran during the last few weeks have had similar characteristics, showing a revolution of equal or greater scale is possible. The protesters are Iranian youths who long for greater human rights and are far more left-wing than their right-wing, highly religious government. They are combating a power that has been in place for decades and has been well-documented as having little regard for human rights, torturing many within their jails if, for example, listen to music from Western countries.
On top of that, the two governments (Pahlavi and Islamic State) are almost identical in many respects, from an almost supreme and concentrated power, to the torturing of journalists who speak out against the government.
However, there is one aspect in which they are not identical, an aspect in which the Islamic Republic will be more susceptible to an even more powerful revolution: the level of unsteadiness in the form of the 2009 protests.
These protests demonstrated on an immense scale that a majority of Iranians are getting sick of the current regime. As such, the Iranian government has been very careful and measured in their actions, including allowing Hassan Rouhani a second term as Iran’s President and negotiating a nuclear deal with the United States and the European Union.
Rouhani, arguably the most liberal and impactful president in Iran when it comes to foreign relations, has been a master negotiator; allowing Iranians a greater amount of freedom both politically and culturally, as well as improving relationships with the western world, especially the United States.
However, recent economic problems and the American threat of sanctions by President Donald Trump have increased uncertainty. America’s pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal will mean increased sanctions being placed on Iran, thus limiting the freedom that the Iranian people have been experiencing. Add that to the general dissatisfaction of the government, and you have a metaphorical hot pressure cauldron that has caused protests to begin breaking out all over the country.
The parallels between the background and the current government are endless, but the overall conclusion remains the same: lightning will most likely strike twice.
The increasing amount of similarities and specifically the many protests that have come before it will lead to protests greater than 2009 and even 1979. These will be the biggest protests in Iranian history, and could change the face of the Middle East as we know it.
Because of Iran’s status as the lynchpin of the Middle East both economically and socially, a full-on revolution could irreparably destroy its economy and throw the entire Middle East into chaos. Imagine Syria, but instead, it will be seen all across the Middle East, creating a myriad of problems all across the globe.
As such, the people of Iran must be extraordinarily careful, and, above all else, should not turn to violence or a full-scale war as a solution. Should the government of Iran be overthrown, the transition must be watched closely, as the Islamic group, led by Khomeini, were able to step into a chaotic Iran and take over the government, putting us in the situation we are in now. So, to the people of Iran, be careful. You’ve got the fate of not only a country, but an entire world in your hands.
The author has chosen to stay anonymous due to concerns about personal security.