Protests in Iran: the End of the Islamic Republic? 

Iran has been gripped by a month of protesting following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in September in police custody after allegedly wearing “unsuitable attire.” Amini’s death sparked widespread protests across Iran, strikingly featuring women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs in protest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s strict religious laws. The government has responded with brutal force, dispatching security forces to violently put down protests and reestablish control. The regime’s violence however, has done little to stop the protests as unrest ripples across the country.

Women’s rights and dignity are deservedly center stage in the protests, but they are not the only reason for mass unrest. Soaring prices, unemployment, and political repression have all contributed to popular discontent, weakening the stability of the Islamic Republic. Protests are not uncommon in Iran, nor is the regime’s military response to suppress them. Consequently, experts argue that the Iranian regime is likely to put down this protest as well. The Biden administration has responded by imposing further sanctions on current Iranian officials responsible for the violence, but there are some calls for additional action, such as threatening to walk away from discussions with Iran on a nuclear agreement (and subsequent sanctions relief). Some observers have drawn parallels between the current protests and the Iranian Green Movement of 2009. At that time, the Obama Administration chose not to get involved in Iran’s internal situation by supporting the protestors, fearing this would discredit the movement through the appearance of American “meddling”. The Biden administration faces a similar predicament, and it is not yet clear if Washington will offer more support as the regime continues its violence against protestors.

Questions and Background

  • What explains the current uprising in Iran? How is it different from previous protests against the regime in Tehran? Why do you think it is happening now/what is the context? 
  • What are the goals of the protesters and what do they need to succeed? 
  • Does the U.S. have moral and material responsibility to help those fighting for freedom in Iran today?
  • What are the costs and benefits of the United States getting involved? 

Iran Crisis Update, October 26
Fredrick W. Kagan. Critical Threats. October 26, 2022.

Iran Is on the Brink of Revolution — or War
Shay Khatiri. The New York Sun. October 25, 2022. 

The Beginning of the End of the Islamic Republic
Masih Alinejad. Foreign Affairs. October 18, 2022. 

A Second Iranian Revolution?
Ray Takeyh. Commentary. November, 2022. 

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