Archive image: Angry demonstrators gathered in front of the two sanctuaries in Qom and tried to break through the gates leading to the shrines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Protests in Iran
Islamic Republic facing a religious watershed

Iranians do not want an Islam that interferes. They are fed up with a system that manipulates people with simple promises of salvation and anti-Western propaganda. Islamic theologian Hamideh Mohagheghi sees Iran at a religious crossroads

"Many Iranians no longer want an Islam that is obsessed with conformity and rules. Here the system has achieved exactly the opposite of what it wanted," she told Germany’s Catholic News Agency (KNA) in an interview on Wednesday, referring to the current protests.
 
In Iran, she said, people were turning away from a state-imposed faith "that constantly interferes in individual areas of life that have nothing to do with faith". Instead, they were finding new ways of spirituality. Spiritual Islam was deeply rooted in the population, even among young people opposing the system, said the German-Iranian who teaches at the University of Paderborn.
 
Unlike in 2009 or 2019, the protests this time were "very concretely ignited by the headscarf requirement", the theologian said, adding that in the Koran, the female head covering was merely a recommendation, not an obligation.

Islamic theologian Hamideh Mohagheghi (photo: KNA International)
More people than ever before have joined the protests: "Women in particular are now demanding their rights more courageously than ever, many educated Iranians are demonstrating, but the protest is also coming from the wider population, including the lower classes," says Mohagheghi. Nevertheless, millions of impoverished people remain satisfied with small state subsidies and allow their vote to be bought. "They think their poverty is a ticket to paradise," adds Mohagheghi

Never before had so many people taken their anger at the system to the streets throughout the country, she added: "Women in particular are now demanding their rights more courageously than ever, many educated Iranians are demonstrating, but the protest is also coming from the wider population, including the lower classes."
 
However, the government continued to have support among the population, and not just among the Revolutionary Guards, which also controlled the economy, or the "unscrupulous" Basij forces.
 
Millions of impoverished people were satisfied with small state subsidies and allowed their vote to be bought. "They think their poverty is a ticket to paradise," said Mohagheghi. The system manipulated these people with simple promises of salvation and anti-Western propaganda.
 
The nationwide protests in Iran were triggered by the death of the young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in mid-September.

She was arrested by the Iranian morality police for not wearing her headscarf according to government standards and died shortly afterwards in custody.
 
The police said she had a heart attack, but there were reports on social media that Amini had been beaten during her arrest.

Protests erupted across the country. Human rights activists say more than 450 demonstrators have been killed so far.   

(KNA International)

 

More on this topic