Today’s protests in Iran have been cited as the greatest threat the Islamic Republic has faced since it took power in 1979. The regime’s requirement for women to be veiled and the riots that sparked the recent death of Mercer Amini in Moral Police custody, says modern Middle East historian Pooya Alimagam Alimagam, says Iran’s people tells of the long struggle for freedom.
An expert on Iran, Iraq and the Levant, Ali Magam explores themes such as revolutions and guerrilla movements, imperialism, “political Islam” and post-Islamism in his research. His book, Contesting the Iranian Revolution: The Green Uprisings (Cambridge University Press, 2020), explores the political movements that Mahmoud contested in his Ahmadinejad presidential election in 2009 and how it impacted the regime’s legitimacy. I am exploring whether I challenged from the ground up.
In this interview, Ali Magam discusses the historical background behind the current movement, compares it to other uprisings in Iran, and explains what this means for the future of the country.
Q: Are the current protests the greatest threat facing the Iranian regime since it took power in 1979?
A: The current protest movement is the biggest challenge since the clergy took power in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution, and the biggest challenge since the 2009 Green Movement protests. The state declared its preferred candidate and incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the “winner”.
The number of green movements was much higher. In just his one day, June 15, 2009, three million people gathered in Tehran to protest against the country. This total does not include protests across the country on the same day. We have yet to see a protest on that scale in today’s riots. A striking difference between 2009 and today is the continuity of protests today. The 2009 uprising lasted every day for a full week before being driven underground, but resurfaced on certain political holidays to resume the struggle. Iran’s political calendar incorporates holidays, and the country encourages people, usually Iranian supporters, to come out in step with the government to mark certain occasions. One such example is the National Day Against Global Arrogance, commemorating the seizure of the US Embassy in Iran on November 4, 1979. Covers of such political holidays emerged and reignited the protest movement. It turned into several uprisings spread over the calendar.
Today’s uprising, though small in scale at the moment, was an ongoing daily movement despite the government’s best efforts to violently suppress it. Currently, the death toll is about four times the green movement’s casualty rate. Green movements were bigger, longer and more sporadic.
Q: What makes this protest different from other protests in Iran, including the Green Movement, which is the subject of your book?
A: There are important similarities and differences. For one, they both redid the issue and quickly morphed into something bigger. started. June 2009 gave way to “This Month is Blood Moon, Sayyid Ali”. [Khamenei] It will be overthrown by December of the same year.”
Today’s protests began with the mandatory veil-wearing for women and the death of Masa Amini in moral police custody, as well as targeting entire states to enforce such draconian policies, and more. It has become many things.
Both movements had figures of female martyrs. The green movement has Neda Agasoltan, who was captured on camera on June 20, 2009, making her one of the most televised deaths in history. Today’s riot has Masa Amini. The main difference is that while gender and political issues were also very important in 2009, gender issues have risen to parity with political issues, with women and girls at the forefront of the riots. So the slogan of today’s protests is clearly ‘Women, Life, Freedom’.
I think there is also an important continuity between the two moments. Although analysts often call the green movement a “failure” for failing to quash Ahmadinejad’s election “victory” or overthrow the state that ratified the election results. , with other significant successes. One such success was that the Green Movement broke the political taboo of challenging the jurisprudence that is the foundation of the Islamic Republic state, breaking the state’s monopoly on Islamic and revolutionary symbols of justification. is. In that sense, the green movement began by challenging the election results and then the state’s source of legitimacy. In doing so, it undermined the ideological foundations of the state. The movement ended in complete denial of the state. All protests since 2009 have been statewide, featuring locations where the green movement was suppressed. In that sense, one of today’s uprising slogans is a modified Green Movement rally cry. “This year is the year of blood, Sayyid Ali [Khamenei] be knocked down. “
Q: How has the administration responded and what does this tell us about the administration’s future?
A: Like in 2009, 2017-2018, and today when activists challenged the regime, the regime has doubled down on repression. View compromise as a sign of weakness. It has such a perception because of the history of the Iranian revolution from which this government came into being. In revolution, the Shah wavered between compromise and forcefulness. Often he employs both approaches at the same time. For example, the Shah pardoned political prisoners and gave impetus to the revolution. Activists interpreted the amnesty as proof that they could reap political consequences if they continued on their trajectory. At the same time, the Shah implemented a military regime and martial law, which sparked further revolutionary outrage and new targets for mobilization.
Meanwhile, today’s Iranian state knows this history and has never compromised in the face of protesters.In 2009, it affirmed election results and cracked down on demonstrations. In November 2019, when it abolished the petrol subsidies that sparked the protests, it didn’t turn back and killed the score. Today, too, we seek safe solutions to protesters, not political ones. I’m not saying compromises are impossible, but given our history, it’s unlikely. Note that while governments are unlikely to compromise, it is very likely that if they do, it will be too late. Iranians have been reeling under the weight of government authoritarianism for too long, and they may not accept such compromises, even if they were imminent.
Q: Finally, could you briefly explain the historical context of today’s protests in Iran?
A: Today’s struggle is part of a long lineage of revolutions in which generations of Iranians have demanded a more representative, democratic, accountable, fair, just and humane government. department.
The history of Iran, such as when the British Empire and Tsarist Russia intervened during Iran’s constitutional revolution more than 100 years ago, or when CIA-MI-6 overthrew Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s democratically elected government. The previous moment was aborted. 1953, the first true experiment in democracy.
The Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 was about freedom and independence. It achieved the latter, but stalled miserably when it came to the former. Today’s uprising is rooted in a past that seeks to rectify its shortcomings. Iranians continue to fight for freedom.