Iran – Which Kind of Democracy Are We Trying to Build in the Middle East? 

Iran’s regime is threatened by violent strikes and protests that are likely to slowly become an actual civil war. The roots of this situation to break out can be found within the history of neocolonialism. 

News Commentary

By Nicole di Maria / Matthew staff || Edited by Jacopo Menichincheri

On Sept. 16, Iran’s morality police detained Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, for letting a few hair pieces escape her hijab. Her behavior violates regulations deemed necessary by Iranian officials based on traditional Islamic beliefs. Mahsa was then placed in a re-education center. These latter function as detention facilities, where women — and occasionally males – are detained for not adhering to the state’s modesty regulations. After her detention, Mahsa was transferred to the hospital “without any vital signs and brain-dead,” according to Time Magazine.  

Protests are threatening to topple Iran’s Islamic Republic. They extended to more than one hundred cities. More than one hundred universities participated in the strikes; even professors took a position, as some resigned from their job, others physically joined the strikes, and others openly declared to support the cause.  

As the regime’s existence is threatened, it is trying to control the protests by blocking internet connections and closing several universities. Moreover, physical repressions get more violent every time with the use of firearms and teargas. However, these responses from the government were only helpful in strengthening people’s rage and revolutionary beliefs.Foreign Policy Magazine highlighted how these protests differ from those concerning the citizens’ discontent over economic issues and concerns about election rigging. These protests are indeed challenging the theocratic social rules that govern Iranian society. 

The British news agency Reuters informed about Iran’s Foreign Ministry declaration saying that “Washington is always trying to weaken Iran’s stability and security although it has been unsuccessful.” This declaration is fundamental to understanding what is truly going on in Iran and how neocolonialism is affecting the current policies of the middle east. Iran’s Foreign Ministry’s statement is not based on mere beliefs. 

According to the New Yorker Magazine, Masih Alinejad a 46-years-old Iranian dissident journalist working from an FBI safe house has coordinated a social media campaign that has helped incentivize the protests. However, these statements must also be addressed to less recent events.  

Going back to 1953, the USA and UK governments, respectively under the name TPAJAX Project and “Operation Boot”, orchestrated a coup d’état to replace the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favor of the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – commonly named as “the Shah” – according to Theodore L. Leonhardt analysis. The Shah immediately suppressed political dissenters such as the liberal and nationalist opposition and the (Communist) Tudeh party. This coup was supposedly arranged to let the U.S.-U.K. coalition regain control over Iran’s high-revenue resources. Anti-Shah discontent concludes through the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This latter signed the end of Pahlavi’s rule and the beginning of an Islamic republic under the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  

Nevertheless, some problems persist today and are rooted in the events mentioned above. The Iranian political and religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who served as the first supreme leader of the Islamic republic, asserted that Islamic jurists must guide the country to prevent “the influence of foreign powers.” This way of thinking is rooted in the government’s mindset. Although today’s leader of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, seems to be more open to confrontation with hegemonic powers like the US, it will be pretty unlikely to reach trustful cooperation between countries. The government is trying to protect its autocratic rule embedded in religious legacies and the country from foreign influences. It is now easy to give meaning to the establishment of moral police and the outgrowth of the incredible violence that women and protestors are now living in Iran.