Iran is in hot waters again. On one side its economy is struggling owing to the UN sections, and over its internal political instability that is on its peak on the issue of succession of Rahbar Khamnai, while the current protests have been providing fuel to the already dwindling situation. The ongoing wave of protests was ignited after the killing of a 22-year old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini Jina who was detained and then killed by the Iranian morality police on the pretext of not wearing proper Hijab on September 16, 2021. It has been four four months that millions of people belonging to trade unions, middle class workers, affluents, students, myriad of ethnicities, and most importantly women are on the streets echoing their slogan of ‘life, women, freedom’ which is a fresh breeze of air from getting freedom from the shackles of slavery.
Iran has been a place of protests particularly for womens movement where Iranian women had risen up for their rights during the 18th century first. Their Long historical struggle can be traced from the Qajar dynasty when women took streets for their rights. In 1872 they again staged protests against foreign occupation. Again, in Constitutional period (1905-1911), they emerged as victorious in getting their socioeconomic and political rights. In addition, during the Pahlavi regime (1925-1979) they again struggled for their rights and got right to university education in 1936, got right to votes in 1961, and rights in family laws. Admirably, like other sections of society; women were also fed up by the authoritative regime of Raza Shah Pahlavi owing to which they played a leading role for change. When change was not occured as expected after the 1979 revolution, women again rose up against the new conservative regime and started hijab protests in 1979. They were the main participants of tye 2009s green movement, 2017s, and 2019s protests. The current wave of demonstration as portrayed by analysts and obervers is the biggest since the 1979 revolution.
Owing to the participation of many stakeholders including different ethnicitie of the country, the protests will have long lasting implications on domestic policies of Iran as well as on international community and Middle Eastern countries. At current, the protesters have achived their first victory where the government has abolished the morality police. More, the demonstrations have ended the fear and exposed the weaknessees of the security forces of Iran who have failed to suppress the protesters. In addition, it has succeeded to alter political narrative in the country and have gotten sympathy from politicians too. For instance, as Sara Nazoobandi observes that the former president Muhammad Khatamai and former speaker Ali Larijani, as well as some outspoken Clerics, including Hojjat al Islam Fazal Meybodi, have suggested the regime that time is running out for the regime and there is need for a national dialogue to address the deep rooted grievances of the people.
Will the current wave of protests change the regime? The answer is no. History witnesses that a leaderless movement does not bear fruit. The issue with the current movement in Iran is same as it has no leading figure. In addition, in the presence of a deeply penetrated conservative set up, and strong revolutionary guard an abrupt change is dismal. While, Iran’s trade and security agreement with China can help in the revival of Iranian economy which might have positive implications on the lives of the people. If the regime announces ecnomic packages for middle and working class then there is possibility that the middle class and labor unions wokers can part ways from protest.
Nevertheless, the protests might have impacts on internal situation of the middle eatern countries as the causes of the current Iranian protests are also found in the middle eatern countries too. For instance, Tunisia is already in the midst of potests over ecnomic meltdown. Egypt is also struggling in economic recovery and universities students have also staged protests against conservative dress code. Though Saudi Arabia is heading towards modernization but still a long way to go where women and ethics minorities face restrictions yet. The ongoing protests in Iran can be inspiring for middle eastern countries and the autocratic rulers of the region will have been observing the situation of Iran keenly.
The statements of the US and Western leadership against the Iranian regime in the support of protesters will ultimately lead Iran more close to China and Russia who have compact relations with Iran and are reticent over the current protets. In addition, as per the US Indo-Pacific alignment the main aim is to encounter China, Iran, and Russia. Consequently, Iran has tilted towards Russia and China. These two states have built strong economic and military ties with Iran despite the UN, the US, and western sanctions.
There are three possible scenarios of the protests. The first is to crush the movement with more force, this is impossible as the protesters are charged, are millions in numbers, and have been demonstrating across the country. While, if any forces is used, international community might impose more sanctions on Iran which could be destarous for it. The second possible scenario is to let the protesters carry on their demonstrations and let them fatigue. This is also impracticable as the protesters are on roads for more then 100 days and that there is no sign of fatigue or decrease in their strength. The third possible scenario could be for both groups to adopt a policy of give and take. And the government announces some concessions for protesters for which the first was the abolishment of morality police. If some laws are altered and some type of economic incentives and packages are announced for the common citizens both the protesters and government will be in a win—win situation.
To wrap up, the ongoing movement in Iran is the biggest movement since 1979. The protestors are still charged after more then 100 days of demonstrations and have achieved prize of first victory of abolishing morality police by the theocratic regime. The protests will undoubtedly impact the domestic polity of Iran, will impact Middle Eastern countries, and will have positive implications on the Troika relations of China, Russia and Iran. Albeit, protesters have thrown Pebbles into the Sea. But, the immediate change of conservative regime of Iran is murky and unpredictable.
Naseeb Ullah Achakzai is a M.Phil scholer and writes as a freelance columnist.