Iranian women have been rebelling against restrictions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – with renewed hope that protests this time will end differently

Pardis Mahdavi, Provost and Executive Vice President, The University of Montana, The Conversation on

Published in Political News

Unlike his predecessor, Ahmadinejad had no interest in finding ways to work with the growing youth population of Iran or in more progressive interpretations of Islam. He ordered the morality police to crack down on young people, raiding homes and parties and arresting women on the streets who dared to violate Islamist rules. Public floggings increased, as did arrests of scholars, feminists and journalists. The conservatives wanted to send a message.

The emboldened young revolutionaries continued pushing for change. These movements came to a head in 2009 when, despite not receiving the popular vote, Ahmadinejad was reelected as president.

Led by the same young people who resisted the morality police during the sexual revolution, a new movement was born in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 elections. This was called the “Sabze,” or Green Movement. People took to the streets of Iran chanting “where is my vote?” and “not my president.”

A catalyzing moment for this movement was the chilling murder of Neda Agha-Soltan. She was killed in June 2009 simply for being at one of demonstrations where one of the bloodiest clashes between protesters, the Revolutionary Guard and the morality police took place. Her death was captured on film and shared with the world.

On the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in 2019, the streets of Iran were once again filled with resisters, many of whom had participated in street protests since the early 2000s. These same children of the revolution and Iran-Iraq war organized efforts such as #MyStealthyFreedom that featured women photographing themselves without headscarves in public in Iran and joining the global #MeToo movement.

By 2019 disenchantment with the regime had spread from the highly educated young people in the urban centers to even many of the most religiously devout families in some rural areas who had been previous supporters of the regime.

Iranians of all backgrounds facing rising oil prices and unemployment as a result of years of sanctions were increasingly losing faith in their government. Many no longer subscribed to the rhetoric about restoring moral order.


Today’s street protests are taking place in more than 50 cities throughout the country and have drawn the attention and support of the international community. These protests are both a refrain of past protests as well as a renewal of courage and hope.

As in the past, since Sept. 16, 2022, activists are taking to the streets to challenge a regime steeped in a rhetoric of harshly interpreted morality rather than governing with the best intentions of the people. And as in the protests of 2009 and 2019, they are calling for accountability of the government’s shortcomings, as well as highlighting the poverty that rages throughout the country – along with the pain of the people.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Pardis Mahdavi, The University of Montana. If you found it interesting, you could subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Read more:
Unrest across Iran continues under state’s extreme gender apartheid

US and Iran have a long, troubled history

Pardis Mahdavi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


blog comments powered by Disqus