Why might there not be a chance for a counter-revolution to emerge from the Iranian protests?

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December 22, 2020

Why might there not be a chance for a counter-revolution to emerge from the Iranian protests?

Harun Basli
harun.basli@gc4ss.org

Expert
Global Center for Security Studies

Iran is once again in the news due to protests there that occasionally turn violent and are taking place in many of its cities. The passing of Mahsa Amini is what sparked the protests this time. The morality police killed her shortly after being taken into custody. This is quite interesting that the protests are led by women; these are the generation of post-revolutionary youth shaped by the revolution. The Iranian women have overcome their trepidation by removing their headscarves and cutting their hair, which is a notable distinction between these rallies and the prior ones.

The first large-scale protest after the 1979 revolution, the Green Movement, could only occur in 2009: the death of a woman who was shot by the regime forces during the demonstrations had triggered the participation in the protests. Today’s Mahsa Amini protests might turn into a grassroots movement due to their political nature. This demonstration is not merely a response to a financial issue, such as the increase in gasoline prices.

The use of excessive force and violence by authoritarian governments to repress calls for justice and freedom is a regular practice. As with prior protests, the Iranian dictatorship showed no sign of toleration for the ongoing demonstrations and forcibly put an end to them with the help of its official and unofficial components. The authorities have made remarks addressing the issue as the demonstrators are causing unrest and turmoil rather than taking the most fundamental actions to be addressed, such as identifying and investigating individuals responsible for the deadly occurrence that triggered the protests.

The question is whether the nationwide protests will develop in the context of the aforementioned environment. Some opposition organizations have expressed the expectation that the demonstrations will spark a counter-revolution. We will go over why, given the existing situation in Iran, the current protests have little chance of escalating into a counter-revolution.

The Need for a Leader

Despite some anti-regime organizations and institutions supporting the protests, the Iranian people, and Iranian women, in particular, have been participating on their own. No clear formation or leader can be seen in either the foreground or backdrop of the protests.

The protests that people participate in are unlikely to spark a counter-revolution without a compelling leader to inspire further involvement. An Iranian woman living in exile in the United States has so far filled the role of a movement’s leader in Iran. Even if the aforementioned woman has been promoting the protests on her social media accounts, there are still concerns regarding her ability to connect with all of Iran’s many socioeconomic structures.

Internal Support

In a regime like Iran, which has been ruled for more than forty years, it is of vital importance to violently suppress the demands for justice and freedom for its survival. If required, these protests will dissipate over time, much like the previous ones, as a result of conflicts between the powerful components that support the protests and the dominating power elements.

Iranians probably want to hear from the moderate reformist movements, especially powerful leaders who could have a major impact on how the protests develop, such as Hasan Rouhani, Ali Larijani, and Hasan Khomeini.

International Pressure

The possibility of international pressure or isolation might be considered a motivating factor for authoritarian regimes to retreat. In actuality, Iran has long been subject to international sanctions, particularly those imposed by the USA. Although it is clear that these sanctions, which are primarily economic in nature, have a significant negative impact on Iran’s economy, predicting beneficial outcomes in favour of freedom has never materialized.

The current symbolic responses of the world powers suggest that the Western Front has no expectations from the protests and is instead concentrating on the nuclear agreement with Iran that is about to be signed.

All in all, it appears unlikely that the current anti-regime demonstrations would soon lead to a revolution for freedom. However, one wonders how long the Iranian dictatorship would be able to repress the country’s increasingly urbanized society’s demands for modernity. It seems quite likely that, this time, by taking smooth steps, the regime forces will defuse the protests’ tension.

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