In Iran, the recent death of young Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the moral police has sparked anti-government demonstrations and violent crackdowns by police. These events have resulted in numerous arrests and estimated hundreds of deaths. As the situation in Iran continues to escalate, the question arises: could these protests lead to a new revolution in the country? The ongoing crisis in Iran, including the protests and the government’s response, is worthy of close analysis and examination.
In Iran, anti-government demonstrations that have flared up following the death of young Mahsa Amini, who was in morality police custody, have led to violent police crackdowns. Numerous arrests have been made and hundreds are estimated to have died. The question that arises is, could the protests in Iran lead to a new revolution?
Since the beginning of the protests, there have been numerous attempts to disrupt the media, especially the Internet, with the aim of disrupting the possibility of showing the world the reality of what is happening and limiting the spread of outbreaks. However, this has not helped much.
What is happening in Iran is not only about Mahsa Amini’s death. Her death was the spark that ignited the fire. The situation is far more complex.
Mahsa Amini was with her family visiting Tehran from north-western Kurdistan when she was arrested on charges of violating the hijab law. This law came into effect in 1981, after the Islamic revolution, and has long been challenged by many women in Iran.
It is worth mentioning that the current policy of restricting the rights of Iranian women has undergone several changes throughout the country’s recent history. Before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, it is undeniable that Iranian women were in a very different condition of freedom from the current one, inspired by the Western model. However, Shah’s political system was oppressive, forcing the country into a somewhat forced Westernization where the majority of Iranians still felt unrepresented. Many were the women who rebelled, putting up a form of passive resistance: they thus changed, in protest, their Western mode of dress and wore a long, wide cloak covering their entire bodies, then wrapping their heads in a large headscarf.
When the people’s revolt erupted, inspired by Ayatollah Rūḥollāh Khomeynī, some women from different walks of life paraded in the front row opposing Shah’s regime, sometimes using the chador itself as a metaphor for rebellion. This was used by the nascent Islamic regime as a symbol of legitimization of its power. With the seizure of power, the expectations of Iranian women were betrayed by an increasing restriction of their rights, leading to the current social situation.
Returning to the case of Mahsa Amani, the young woman died three days after her detention while in the custody of the morality police, which enforces the country’s strict Islamic rules.
The government’s version is that the young girl died of a heart attack while in the detention center. Her family has disputed this claim, pointing out that the young girl was perfectly healthy before her arrest.
According to sporadic reports, the country is still in the chaos that began with protests against the morality police. Later, it turned into a wave of protests against the Iranian regime and its theocratic pincer. However, the political situation is more complicated than many believe because many of the protesters belong to the Kurdish minority in western Iran.
Iran’s Kurdish minority has been fighting for autonomy rights for nearly 80 years and has made numerous demands for autonomy and independence. Iran and its neighbors have long perceived the Kurds as a threat because of their numbers, geographic distribution, and resistance to the central authority. In fact, the Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East.
The fact that protests have erupted in these Kurdish regions with a strong Kurdish presence cannot be considered an accident. The Kurds have long fought the Tehran government, and many times the Iranian air force has bombed Kurdish border towns in Iraq.
The fact that a Kurdish woman has been targeted has helped the protests to spread into the current situation, and the situation could really become dangerous for the regime. We could see an even more aggressive reaction from the government and subsequently more deaths.
There are still other reasons why the situation in Iran is escalating. Iran has faced some fundamental problems with its food security in recent years. In fact, Iran is located in the world’s dry belt and is among the driest countries, with an average rainfall of only 250 millimeters per year. Compared to its nearly 165 million hectares of land only about 50 million are arable, with only 18 million hectares used for agriculture. Drought and other repercussions of climate change are putting a strain on Iranian agriculture.
This has led to growing discontent, unrest, socioeconomic problems, and growing anger at the mismanagement of resources in the face of a crisis situation. Iranian authorities have turned to trans-territorial agriculture as an alternative strategy to achieve food security for its 85 million people and buy time for soil and water restoration.
Iran has announced that its Latin ally, Venezuela, has offered it 1 million hectares of land for field agriculture while Russia has offered 100,000 hectares of land. However, this appears insufficient as it involves very high costs, long timelines, and logistical problems.
Food insecurity is not the only problem in Iran; there is also water scarcity, which poses a real existential threat. This factor has been even more amplified by global warming. There have been several protests in some Iranian cities in reaction to the water scarcity, a trend that will only become more acute and pose a formidable challenge to the Iranian government in society in recent decades. To date, insufficient attention has been paid to water security, either now or in the past. For example, the Iranian government under the Shah focused on cultivating agriculture that consumed enormous amounts of water. The result was destroying the water system that had worked for millennia. The situation did not improve much after the revolution. The post-1979 government continued with maximum extraction rather than limiting water consumption.
Added to this is the problem related to the economic sanctions that have been in place against the country for years and the ongoing confrontation with the international community. There is no hiding the fact that most Western media view the collapse of the current regime as something “positive.” However, it is important to point out that another civil war, could lead to millions of deaths and catapult the country into the abyss.
It is not easy to determine if the current protests could lead Iran to a new revolution. However, even if the current crisis that has erupted following the death of young Mahsa Amini is resolved, and hopefully in favor of all those who are bravely fighting for greater rights and equity, Iran will face existential threats in the near future, as indeed will a great many other states around the world, the West not excluded.
One thing is certain, the struggle of Iranian women and all the men who support them is a great example of courage, resistance, and rebellion in favor of human rights, for the whole world.
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