Since late December, protestors across Iran have been inveighing against a range of privations, from the price of eggs to unpaid back wages. Women took off their head-scarfs and waived them as an expression of dissent. And although the demonstrations are at a lull right now, we should expect them to flare up again.
Elsewhere I’ve argued that Iranians don’t want Western-style democracy —but neither do they want to live under an oppressive regime. Often, that binary choice is the only one we as a superpower present to the world. The political systems of societies have varied over time, and we can frustrate and impede nations by making it seem like these are the only alternatives. Historically, peoples have found ways to have meaningful and prosperous lives, enjoying some fruits of liberty outside of Enlightenment-inspired liberal democracies.
So what can we reasonably expect liberty to look like in Iran, and possibly other areas in the Middle East? What is the road to liberty at this stage of Iran’s political history? First let us consider the current state of things there, especially with respect to human rights.
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