New wave of Iranian protests fueled by moral, religious concerns and abuses

A new wave of protests and dissent in Iran is different from that of the Green Movement of 2009 in that it is animated more by cultural and religious concerns than strictly political and economic ones, writes Isa Karasioglu in Anthropology News (November 1). The latest protests arrived sporadically starting last spring, with tens of thousands of Iranians taking to the streets and heavy police intervention resulting from these incidents. Karasioglu writes that whereas the Green Movement protests were quickly cracked down on, the more recent demonstrations are “more unique and persistent.” While worsening economic conditions, usually involving sanctions, were cited as the main factors in this protest, the author finds that growing uncertainty about the Islamic structure of the regime is fueling a big part of it. The uncertainty relates to the increasing use of “loopholes” to get around religious strictures. This includes the way that an underground nightlife is flourishing in Iran as well as how the Islamic practice of temporary marriage is rendering sexual activity more common among young Iranians. Because these practices could not exist without the tacit approval of the regime, they “underscore the fluidity of moral rules in Iran.” Yet the moral police are still intervening when a woman goes out without appropriate veiling.

Karasioglu “found that Iranians are angered more by the issue of accountability and the regime’s illicit expenditures than they are by the economy’s worsening condition.” The Islamic practices of zakat (one-fortieth of one’s income distributed as alms) and the hums (half of one’s profit given as alms) constitute the religious root of Iran’s monetary issues, particularly the way these funds intended for charity are going into government coffers. “The lack of accountability and transparency has long put question marks into the minds of Iranians, for the government seems to be the leading beneficiary of the institution of hums.” These concerns about religious corruption were magnified after a scandal broke out in 2013 involving a Turkish citizen of Iranian descent, revealing that business people along with Islamists in Turkey and Iran were involved in smuggling gold for Iranian oil through involvement in fictitious export enterprises. “The convergence of the religion’s anti-corruption teachings and the hypocritical anti-corruption rhetoric of those who apparently exploited the religion for reaching their political goals is likely to have long-term impact,” Karasioglu writes.

(Anthropology News,