Today's episode challenges preconceived notions about Iranian society, the hijab, and the regime clinging to power in Tehran. Joining us today for an enlightening conversation are two Iran experts, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt and Alex Vatanka. Marjan is the founder and director of the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM), a non-resident scholar with MEI’s Iran Program, and a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities. Alex is the director of MEI’s Iran Program and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Europe Initiative. He is the author of the 2021 book The Battle of the Ayatollahs in Iran: The United States, Foreign Policy and Political Rivalry Since 1979.

Key takeaways

  1. The death of Mahsa Amini has made it clear how out of touch the Iranian government really is. The problem is far bigger and broader than just the issue of mandatory hijab — that only created another opportunity for Iranians to express their anger toward the regime and its repressive rule. It is not about specific ethnic groups or communities, but about basic human rights, freedom, and women’s lives.
  2. The actions taken by the Iranian authorities are all about power and control, not respect for religion and morality. The leaders of the regime refuse to compromise, are unwilling to admit mistakes, and neglect domestic priorities. The government’s crackdown in the streets and shutdown of the internet are in line with previous efforts to suppress protests, including in 2019 and 2020.
  3. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is 83 years old. His passing will represent a major inflection point for the Islamic Republic and it is unclear what will happen after his death. The Iranian people are not their government, and they have different values and beliefs from those espoused by the leaders in Tehran. This divide may come to a head during the succession process.

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