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The Past, Present, and Uncertain Future of Iran
Emma Milchunes | feb 13, 2023

Recently in the news due to the recent military action taken by Israel, Iran yet again claims a series of headlines in what seems to be a year of nonstop controversy. From the untimely and unjust death of Mahsa Amini to the burning spotlight placed upon the nation during the Qatar World Cup, it seems Iran cannot catch its breath nor save face from the scrutinous pressure and watchful eyes of the global community over this past year. 


These most recent events truly beg the question of what the current state of Iran is – both within the country and its position internationally. This concept cannot be understood without looking into the precedent of internal unrest within the nation, and what the past – and present – could mean for the future.  


On September 12, 2022, Mahsa Amini was arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police for improperly wearing a hijab, with the young woman passing away only days later due to injuries inflicted upon her. The immediate reaction to this event was of outrage, with this death coming off of a wave of revolutionary revolts from women fighting for the removal of dictator Ali Khameini and the morality police as an institution. Acts of civil disobedience such as the group removal of hijabs or demonstrations against the regime have gone on within the country since, with thousands being arrested just within the first two months of the protests. Human rights groups estimate that more than 500 demonstrators have been killed with many more still facing the death penalty. It has been reported as of February 5th that Khameini has pardoned tens of thousands of anti-government protests from the fall. 


Iran’s current atmosphere calls to the historical knowledge (and memory, for some) of the parallels between modern day Iran and the 1979 Iranian Revolution. In an eerily opposite turn of time, it is no longer Supreme Leader Khameini leading the change, but instead fighting it in order to maintain power. Rather than Khameini being the face of the movement, it is Mahsa Amini. UnHerd author David Patrikarakos, has stated that though these two revolutions seem to have their similarities in motive and potential- “For a revolution to succeed, it’s not enough to be against someone; you have to be for someone else. It’s not enough that Khamenei loses. Someone else must win” (Iran's Arab Spring Is Doomed). 


As the Iranian government has been terrorizing protestors and protecting its’ legitimacy, international interference and action has been developing a significant spotlight on the nation. Countries such as the United States and Canada have punished Iran with numerous sanctions and statements condemning its actions, however the retribution which has received the most attention has been that of the recent Israeli missile hitting a military site in Iran. 


This action is likely not due to social justice concerns against the women within Iran, but instead based on fears shared by many others in the Middle Eastern region and those in the Western hemisphere alike. US officials have reported that Israel was ,in fact, behind these attacks, meaning that this is the first attack of defense due to fear over nuclear abilities to have been carried out by Israel since the entrance of Benjamin Netanyahu into office. Though Israel has not publicly claimed the attack, Netanyahu has stated that his country was preventing the facilitation of a secret nuclear weapons  in this interview with CNN. The ambition for nuclear weaponry has been a not-so-secret desire of Iran for the past 50 years, and a topic of much international contention due to the fears over who will have the power to wield such destructive weapons.. It does beg the question – if violence is how Iran’s regime is handling civil disobedience, how would conflict with other states (such as Israel, for example) be handled with nuclear weapons? 


Hope does not appear lost, with many across the world believing and willing to support a better future for this beautiful nation.. The American public has risen in support of the women struggling for rights in Iran; protests have even spread to our campus here at George Washington University, with a story by the GW Hatchet describing accounts of students attending protests throughout D.C.  Though the sympathetic actions of the international community are meaningful, it is what goes on within the country, its people, and leaders that will sculpt the future of Iran. 

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