The breadth and depth of the protests in Iran, which began on Dec. 28 in response to popular dissatisfaction with the poor economy and political repression in the country, are posing a serious challenge to the Islamic republic. There have been marches and lightning protests in dozens of cities, towns and villages across the country. Businesses have gone on strike to protest regime corruption. A new Twitter hashtag, “if there was no Islamic Republic,” is prompting Iranians to envisage an alternative future without a theocracy.
Not surprisingly, the Iranian regime, initially caught off guard by the wide-ranging protests in traditionally pro-government areas, has cracked down hard. At least 21 people have been killed and at least 1,000 arrested. (The real number of those detained is probably much higher.) Most of the dissent has been nonviolent, though there have been some attacks on regime security personnel. Even so, the level of brutality exacted by the regime far exceeds that of the protesters. But there is a good reason for the opposition to avoid violent escalation. Its ability to achieve significant political change will be greatly enhanced if it maintains nonviolent discipline.
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