A Change Is Coming To Iran

In a big news story that is not being widely covered in the media, a few large scale demonstrations began last month in Iran:

Demonstrations spread all across the country, with women removing their headscarves in public, and, in some cases, burning them. Police violence didn’t dampen the protests:

The demonstrations cut across age:

And they cut across gender:

Demonstrators pushed back all across Iran:

Iran’s regime faced large scale demonstrations in 2000 and 2010, but 2022’s are different:  in a parallel move to young Americans voting in large numbers in the 2018 midterm election and giving the Democrats control of the house, young Iranians are leading these protests:


So what happened? I’m not going to pretend I’m in any way an expert on the Iranian regime. But here are some general themes:

–The hijab has been a political weapon since 1936 when Reza Shah Pahlavi banned its wearing as part of his attempt to Westernize Iran. It was an extremely unpopular move and it only lasted a few years. But since the hijab had been politicized, after the 1979 Iranian Revolution the new government made it a symbol of Iran’s new Islamic identity. It was, however, deeply unpopular with a number of people and the attendant purity culture wasn’t fully affixed to Iran until the regime exploited wartime passions during the Iran-Iraq war.

–Because wearing the hijab was a marker of Islamic society, conservative families began sending their daughters to college since the hijab mandate made college part of Islamic society, too. Educated women gravitated to a number of careers where they learned their gender boxed them out of opportunities.

–Iran increasingly became a younger and more urban country, and reactionary conservatism resonated less strongly.

Finally (for this brief historical recap), Iranian hardliners fell into the same trap American hardliners have:

The danger of imbuing restrictions on women’s bodies with such potent political symbolism, it turns out, is that women will seize that symbolic power for themselves. For decades, women’s veiled heads have embodied the state’s pervasive authority. But now, the young women of Iran are calling the regime’s authority into question with every uncovered braid.

Thank goodness for these brave young women. Let’s hope they succeed.