Student Movements in Post-Revolutionary Iran

This article by Mehrdad Mashayekhi, found on JSTOR here, discusses the student movements that erupted in Iran in 1997, 17 years after the Islamic Revolution. As the Islamic Revolution brought about extreme change in Iranian politics and society, it seems peculiar that no other opposition movements erupted as the new regime stabilized. After all, secularists were a large part of the movement and the conservative policies adopted by the religious regimes obviously did not appeal to the entirety of opposition forces that participated. Aside from the veil protests and Ayandegan (free press) protests immediately after the revolution in 1979, however, there were no social uprisings in Iran until 1997. Mashayekhi explains that this was due to an imposed “Cultural Revolution” in 1980 where all campuses were shut down for three years and severe repression of public dissent took place. This “Cultural Revolution” supposedly encouraged the “Islamification” of Iranian society as purges eliminated any opposition to the Islamic regime, no activism was allowed to take place, and the Iranian people had no choice but to accept the policies of the current regime. It wasn’t until 1997 that the first opportunity for citizens to express themselves presented itself again.

Mashayekhi breaks down why 1997 was the opportune time for dissidence to rear its head in Islamic society. Most importantly, he sights University campuses as the site of revolutionary sentiment. As many students in the Islamic Republic of Iran were unemployed, they congregated in Universities and discussed their frustrations with the current regime and the possible outcomes of their futures. These students participated greatly in the 1997 election of president Khatami, who was very liberal in his policies. His rise to office along with the death of Supreme Leader Ayotollah Khomeini brought a new reformist/legalistic political culture that was more adaptable to every day Iranian life. Thus, student movements had the opportunity to erupt in campuses across the country, where students were able to speak out for the first time since 1979. The question now is why did that dissidence come to end? Mashayekhi explains that, as with many social movement, those participating became too divided, organization links crumbled, and the political level of student political discussions was not advanced enough to sweep an entire nation into revolutionary fever again. This is evident in the fact that few wide spread social movements formed in Iran until the Green Revolution during the supposedly rigged elections in 2009.

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Filed under History, Iran Revolt

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