Irish Examiner view: Is Iran’s regime at tipping point?

Death of Mahsa Amini
Irish Examiner view: Is Iran’s regime at tipping point?

A woman shouts slogans next to an Iranian flag during a protest against the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini, outside Iran's general consulate in Istanbul, Turkey,

Those with long memories may recall the general surprise when Iran was taken over by the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers over 40 years ago.

It seemed inconceivable in 1979 that such a hard-line theocrat could gain enough popular support to seize power in a modern nation, but he did. In the intervening decades, Iran has become a byword for repressive policies and restricted freedoms.

All the more remarkable, then, to see women all over that country rise up in anger against the regime in recent days. That anger has been kindled by a specific incident — the death two weeks ago of Mahsa Amini, 22.

While on a visit to the Iranian capital of Tehran, Amini was arrested by the guidance patrol, the morality police of Iran’s law enforcement command, allegedly for wearing her headscarf incorrectly (according to Iran’s hijab regulations). She died in custody of a heart attack, according to the authorities, a claim strongly contested by witnesses who state that Amini was beaten severely by the police when arrested.

The reaction of women in Iran has been to take to the streets in an unprecedented display of rage against the regime. The authorities have responded with predictable violence — hundreds of women have been arrested, and Amnesty International claims that at least four children have been
killed by state forces opening fire on protesters.

Both the EU and the US are considering sanctions against the Iranian regime because of the violence of this response, but the protests within the country itself are far more significant than any external reaction. Whether it is a tipping point with regard to the regime’s survival remains to be seen, but if any lessons can be learned from 1979, it is that the power of the Iranian people should not be underestimated.

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