• Iran's 2019-2020 demonstrations: the changing dynamics of political protests in Iran

      Shahi, Afshin; Abdoh-Tabrizi, E. (2020)
      The widespread protests of November 2019 may be marked as the bloodiest recent chapter of the Islamic Republic of Iran's history in terms of popular dissent. The two major protests in December 2017 and November 2019, followed by the public reaction to the shooting down of the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 by the IRGC over Tehran after the US killing of General Soleimani, suggest that the prevailing dynamics of political protest in Iran are changing. There is an increasing sense of radicalisation among protesters, while the state is prepared to resort to extreme violence to maintain control. The geography of political protest has changed. The declining economic situation has had a profound impact on the more vulnerable segments of the society who are now increasingly playing a more proactive role in challenging the state. The methods of protest have been evolving over the last four decades, especially in the cultural arena. Last but not least, the willingness of the protesters both to endure and inflict violence is precipitously transforming state-society relations beyond recognition. This article begins by providing a brief overview of protest in the history of the Islamic Republic, up to the public reaction to the 2020 downing of the Ukrainian airline over Tehran. This provides a historical context to assess the ways in which both the political climate and protests have changed over the last four decades. A section identifying and analysing the factors which have created the current political cul-de-sac then follows. The changing dynamics of the protests are the result of the existing political gridlock and the economic crisis, and it is thus important to evaluate the prevailing conditions which have paved the way for the radicalisation of political climate in Iran. The final section examines the changing dynamics of political protest.