IRAN: Reeling under the duress of state-sanctioned moral codes of conduct and propriety, doubled with the burden of political subjugation, economic scarcity, and social stress, the Iranian youth continue to rebel against the conservative regime of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Iranian youth, which forms the largest population bloc in the country, with a majority of 80 million people under 30, are among the most suppressed in society in terms of social, political, and sexual freedom. Strict Islamic codes of chastity and family honour are more specifically targeted toward Iranian women, who bear the brunt of primitive patriarchal norms along with modern-day chauvinism.
Following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, allegedly killed in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police over charges of her “unsuitable clothing,” Iran has been gripped by one of its most significant social revolutions since the pandemic began.
With slogans and slanders of “death to the dictator” and “Woman, Life, Freedom,” female activists have taken to the streets and the virtual screen to publicly denounce the regime by cutting their locks or burning their veils in active rebellion against extremist patriarchy.
Iranian youth are the country’s most politically engaged citizens
Besides social freedom and liberal acceptance of individual choices, the Iranian youth have been singled out as one of the most politically active members in the 57 nations of Islamic society.
With relentless resistance against threats to human rights like patriarchy, homophobia, corruption, and social justice, the Iranian youth have played a significant role in posing the greatest threat to the current form of theocratic rule.
Under the notable presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami since 1997, small changes in liberality took place here and there, but his unfulfilled promises of democratic power and tolerance, along with his indifference towards the 1999 student uprisings, turned him unpopular.
During the 1979 revolution, the generation born during or after that time came of age and now recall the stories of fun, frivolity, and freedom, which the regime claims is “degenerate behaviour.” There were reports of youth blasting their music in cars, drug use and addiction, sexual freedom, drag culture, underground music, and unmarried couples holding hands or dating in public, among other things.
Such “degenerate behaviour” went against the grain of Islamic purity and honour, sending shockwaves through Iran and its government by the late 1990s when Ayatollah Khamenei was in power.
What divides the new generation of Iranian youths born in the 1990s and early 2000s from their predecessors- is the lack of recollection of the revolution or the Iran-Iraq war. Ideologies have been shifting, with the youth choosing to leave the country for the West for better economic opportunities and individual freedom.
The Iranian youth have been empowered with a virtual medium that connects them to the global database through satellite dishes, smartphones, and the internet. Gone are the days when Iranians would have only a dozen tv channels or use flip phones for basic contact and messaging.
Talking to Transcontinental Times Aisha (name changed ) said, “We are all entitled to human rights. These include the right to live free from violence and discrimination; to enjoy our life in our way and many other things. We the youth aren’t ready to hand the reins of our life in someone else’s hands. We will not stay silent and fight for our rights till the end.”
Now they are equipped with over 700 tv channels with English dubbed or subtitled shows and use smartphones not just for communication, selfies, and social media but as a strong tool of documentation.
Now every youth with a smartphone and internet has access to the world stage, and a small clip of a heinous attack on personal freedom or social justice is a key piece of damaging evidence.
Despite state surveillance and strict censorship on social media and the internet, Iranians have discovered a loophole to evade the Supreme Leader’s watchful eye and opened up the market for reposting videos of protests, dancing, lip-syncing, and even social commentary.
The social situation in Iran has been succinctly summarised by an anonymous Iranian dissenter online who wrote, “At night, every light that is on in Tehran shows that somebody is sitting behind a computer, driving through information roads; and that is, in fact, a storehouse of gunpowder that, if ignited, will start a great firework in the capital of revolutionary Islam.”
Social media and the internet are merely tools or weapons which can aid in brewing change in a stagnant society, but the weapons must be wielded by the people, specifically the youth, to document and disseminate the revolution online for the world to see.
Also Read: EU to Impose Sanctions on Iran, Warns More over Ukraine War