Despite obvious risks to their safety and decades of oppression by Islamic orthodoxy, young Iranians are saying “We have had enough!” The protests began following the death of twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody. She was allegedly beaten unconscious by the Guidance Patrol, the Islamic “morality police” of Iran, and was accused of a fashion violation related to an “improper hijab.” Following the beating, she went into a state of coma and after several days, she passed away. Since the protests began, on September 14, they have spread across the country and are now directed at the religious establishment itself.
Despite fear of returning to the scenes of the 2019 riots, when 1,500 people were reportedly killed, and despite seventeen deaths that have already been reported in clashes with Iran’s police and Revolutionary Guards, Iranians are undeterred. They have woken up, and they are no longer willing to be silenced.
I have always said that Iran is a very special country. It is an ancient nation with a glorious history, whose people are wise and highly developed. Yet, over the past several decades, they have been severely oppressed by an orthodox Islamic regime that does not let them thrive. The tension between the qualities of the Iranian people and the regime that oppresses them is growing too intense to contain, hence the 2019 outbreak, and hence the current one. I hope, however, that the coming changes will be positive ones, and not otherwise.
Changes are happening not only in Iran, but around the world, and Iran cannot isolate itself from the rapid developments. What is more, now that Iranians are taking to the streets, the events are bound to inspire citizens of other Muslim countries to do the same. Iran’s leadership role in the Islamic world works both ways: When it grows more extreme, countries that follow it become more extreme, as well. When it becomes more open, so do its proxies.
For this reason, it is hard to see Iran’s government willingly accepting the protesters’ demands for openness. Nevertheless, when winds of change blow, they blow around the world. No country will escape them.
Personally, I welcome these changes in Iran. I believe they are for the best, and I know that Israel would like nothing better than to restore the warm relations it once had with the Iranian people and the Iranian government.
People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police”, in Tehran, Iran September 21, 2022. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS