Protesting Iran: The Roots and Results of 2022 Protest Movement
Protests that began in Iran following the death of a young woman when in custody of Tehran’s “morality police” in September 2022 spread to the entire country and rocked 160 cities. It posed the most widespread, sustained challenge to the state power in the Islamic Republic in the past decades, which lasted for four months. It brought back the memories of the 2009 Green Movement and changed the state-society relationship in the country for the foreseeable future. The main question this research seeks to answer is: What factors led to the start and continuation of 2022 protests in Iran and what have been the lasting consequences for the state-society relationship?
The hypothesis in response to the main question is that these protests are derived from disillusionment and disenchantment of the young generation of Iranians with the ruling political system, which is one of gerontocracy. Indeed, every year several members of the political elites die of old age! It is no surprise that Iranian youngsters protesting in the streets throughout the country felt that they could not connect with these old stuffy men who might have never used a computer in their lifetime, whereas Internet surfing has become a national sport. They just cannot envisage a bright future for themselves as long as these leaders ignore their demands for real change including social freedoms.
The protests in Iran demonstrated the depth of the legitimacy crisis that Iranian political system suffers from. This legitimacy deficit might be partly ascribed to the very low turnout in the two most recent elections, which were supposed to forge a unified government fully controlled by the Supreme Leader. But indeed it backfired by depriving the system of the minimum political legitimacy required to function normally.
On results of the protests, it can be suggested that they have changed the state-society relationship significantly, putting the two on a collision course. Hopes for reforms within the framework of the existing system are gone and there is a growing consensus among the majority of the Iranians that the political system is just unreformable.
Keywords: Protests, Iranian Political System, Reforms, Legitimacy, Gerontocracy