Theocracy is Under Attack in Iran

iran protest 1

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. and its European allies in the early 2000s alarmed the clerics in Tehran that they may be next to lose power. Consequently, the clerics heavily invested in manufacturing conventional advanced weapons, which strengthened the country’s military. With the recent progress in the nuclear field, Iran now has a choice to build atomic weapons. Furthermore, Iran’s admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in September 2022 as a full member further has strengthened Iran’s position versus the West. As is explained further below, behind the scenes, the clerics have made a deal with Biden’s administration to reduce weapon-grade uranium enrichment to reduce tension with the United States. As a result, the clerics feel they have managed a strong deterrent against a possible external threat to their regime.

Now that Western imperialism has partly vacated the neighboring countries, the internal threat to the clerical regime has not ceased. Specifically, the women-led social revolution over hejab that started last September, after the death of Mahsa Amini and spread to the schools and universities, has seriously threatened the survival of the theocratic rule in Iran. In recent years, the ruling clerics’ political base has drastically shrunk. Many mosques are almost empty, and some are closed. The clerics are under pressure to give up power, but they do not want to lose their grip on theocratic rule. So far, they have continuously attacked protestors by using force and do not mind killing them to preserve their power.

Seeing the shrinking of their power, the clerics are strengthening their political base by spreading their religious beliefs in schools to indoctrinate underage students. Under the so-called “Amin Plan,” the regime has brought thousands of junior mullahs to teach in schools. The plan is a cooperation between the seminary and the Ministry of Education. Junior mullahs act as Islamic evangelists. The plan is to further de-secularize education in schools. Under the cover of teaching Islamic ethics, the mullahs inject their superstitious beliefs into the students’ brains to prevent anti-clerics movements in the future. Some teachers are forced to retire to be replaced by junior mullahs. Moreover, the magnitude of the brain drain has recently increased, especially since many physicians that the country needs are leaving to seek jobs in the West.

Hejab symbolizes the cleric’s cultural hegemony over half of the population in Iran, which emancipated women have recently challenged. The clerics are under a barrage of criticisms from many Iranians, including some of their own supporters. President Ebrahim Raisi has promised that he will surely re-enforce hejab. Currently, there is legislation under review in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majles) for enforcing hejab entitled “Promotion of the Culture of Chastity and Hejab.” The legislation is supposed to fine women who defy the hejab law.  For example, if a passenger takes off her headscarf in a taxi and the police sees it, the taxi driver will immediately be charged 500,000 tomans (about $50). From a legal viewpoint, a person is responsible for his or her actions, and the driver cannot be punished for another person’s offense. The women who are known celebrities are fined up to 10% of their entire wealth in case of non-compliance with hejab rules. Many have criticized the legislation before becoming law. Also, a group of pro-cleric women has been hired to police enforcement of hejab in Tehran’s metro and other public places. Many think the legislation is unenforceable and will lead to further waves of anti-clerical discontent.

The spread of information technology has created a serious threat to clerical rules. A few weeks ago, several videos were published in the media that showed several officials of the regime engaging in acts of sodomy or adultery, which according to Islamic law, is punishable by the death penalty. In response, the clerics have arrested the persons who took or published the videos.

As is known in the Iranian community, President Joe Biden has friendly relations with the Islamists. Biden has publicly stated that he is interested in Islamic theology. Before the Iranian revolution, Senator Biden was sympathetic to a few Islamist political activists who later became the top officials in the Islamic regime in Iran. According to the Iranian community, a few decades ago, a wealthy dentist in Los Angeles, an Islamic ideologue, financially supported Biden’s campaign for the Senate among Iranians in Los Angeles. Now, it seems behind the scenes the clerics have made a deal with Biden’s administration to reduce Uranium enrichment. AS was reported by the Wall Street Journal on August 11, “Iran has significantly slowed the pace at which it is accumulating near-weapons-grade enriched uranium and has diluted some of its stockpiles. ” [1] Furthermore, the Biden Administration has agreed to let South Korea to release the Iranian funds that were restricted under the U.S. sanctions. Initially, Iran had about $7 billion there, which now has been reduced to $6 billion due to the depreciation of the South Korean won versus the dollar. The $6 billion which was held in a restricted account in Seoul, will be converted to euro and transferred to a bank in Qatar, where they can be accessed for “humanitarian purposes and other trade permitted under U.S. sanctions.”[2] In return, Iran has agreed to release five Iranian American prisoners in Tehran. According to Politico, the top Republican senators criticized Biden’s deal to give a ransom to the regime for releasing the prisoners.[3]

The theocratic regime that came to power in Iran about 44 years ago seems to have lost legitimacy among the majority of Iranians, especially the youth and women who defy the theocratic rules that are enforced by the regime. It is time for the Western supporters of the regime to realize that the life of theocracy in Iran is effectively and rapidly coming to an end.

Akbar E. Torbat ([email protected]) is the author of “Politics of Oil and Nuclear Technology in Iran,” Palgrave Macmillan (2020), He received his Ph.D. in political economy from the University of Texas at Dallas.

[1]Laurence Norman, August. 11, 2023,  Iran Slows Buildup of Uranium Needed for Weapon,

[2] Vivian Salama, August 11,2023 Iran Releases Four Americans from Evin Prison Tehran seeks billions in energy revenue frozen in South Korea.

[3] Eric Bazail-Eimil and Nahal Toosi, August. 10, 2023 Politico,

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