GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY IN QATAR (September 26, 2022) Hosted by the GU-Q Iranian Society and in collaboration with Dr. Mehran Kamrava, one of the university’s esteemed government professors and the director of the Iranian Studies Unit at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, the Iranian Politics Brief was indeed an engaging and enriching dialogue on Iran’s current state of affairs—both within the country and in relationship with the rest of the globe.
Open to all GU-Q students, the Iranian Society’s first event of the semester started off with Dr. Kamrava giving a short introduction focusing on the country’s current string of protests, describing, “the episodes last 7-10 days” and during the latter duration of the episodes remarking, “government repression is so pervasive and so harsh that they eventually tend to die down”. As for the reasons for these ongoing protests, the distinguished professor emphasized the effect that the modern political system which was born from the 1978-79 revolution has on influencing how people choose to mobilize. He goes on to describe the system as one that implores its citizens to participate in “political processes as the state itself dictates”. He further adds that this system “enables them to take part in these government choreographed episodes of uprising … against enemies far and near.” According to Dr. Kamrava, the state had been sponsoring these mass demonstrations and uprisings which indicates that people, particularly those that are “amenable to government or mass organizations” or those that are dependent on the state, are “requested to come out onto the streets” and protest against the said enemies (external forces beyond the state’s borders). Such sentiments have led to the conclusion that the country is no stranger to these demonstrations of mass mobilization.
However, it is also acknowledged that most of the time, the government cannot control the messages being put forth, thus resulting in instances of anti-government or “non-government sponsored protests”. As stated during his talk, Iran has seen the occurrence of both episodes in its history: pro-government and anti-government, with the latter becoming more frequent and more violent, eliciting a “much more violent response from the government”. These anti-government mass demonstrations are, of course, the movements that we are witnessing from the streets of Iran today.
He also emphasizes that Iran employs a “hybrid authoritarian political system,”
highlighting that it is an “authoritarian political system with authoritarian impulses and can be highly repressive if push comes to shove, but it
also has certain features for people to vent their anger through institutional means” (e.g., presidential, parliamentary elections). Nevertheless, this political system is still dubbed highly repressive due to the existence of Iran’s security forces that “will not stop at any level of repression,” as stated by the professor. Such information on Iran's political system is vital when it comes to understanding the country holistically and how the state might act in light of civil movements, just as in any other nation— a concept that is not foreign to many of the SFS-Q students.
Meanwhile, in light of recent events within the country, the protests as a result of the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of morality police, he also stresses the central role of Iranian women in leading these protests, stating they’ve been at the forefronts of the demonstrations. However, Dr. Kamrava also explains that this has not been the only time where women have been known to participate in these episodes: citing the 2009 Green Movement and the 1978-79 revolution. Circling back to the current protests, women across the country are burning their hijabs, using this as a symbol of a social movement and to underscore the current issue of compulsory hijabs.
After answering some short queries from the attending students— ranging from issues of education and protests to questions regarding western media— Dr. Kamrava concluded the session by stating that he hopes the casualties brought about by the protests gradually decrease in the days following.