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A Theocracy’s Bete Noir: The Young

Through countless generations and among all societies, the young have been bringers of change who have upended the status-quo and dramatically altered social and political mores. In today’s time this truth still holds, and it is evidenced by events currently unfolding in Iran, where youths have kept alive the sputtering Green Movement. Last year, after the Islamic Republic’s stolen election, hundreds of thousands of university students and others filled the country’s streets and demanded that their voices be heard. The government, in characteristic theocratic-authoritarian fashion, effected a brutal crackdown on dissent; arresting, raping, and maiming dissidents and then prosecuting them in Stalinist show-trials where death sentences were handed down.

The government’s reign of terror has driven much of the revolution off the streets and has dissuaded many from further resistance. However, the young and learned are tenacious in their struggle for freedom. On university campuses and in their social circles, they challenge the Iranian regime’s legitimacy, while they remain one of the last sectors of society willing to openly defy the theocracy. They are brave men and women who take their lives in their hands and possess more courage and strength than the dispirited and hesitant politicians who claim to lead them. When these politicians called off protests last month, the students massed on the streets and campuses anyway, braving beatings with no bravado and telling their stories to the world via social media.

Neda Agha-Soltan is the symbol of the Green Movement: a young, vivacious 26-year-old, who was gunned down by government thugs.

It is this bravery and determination that sustains the Green Movement, and the Iranian regime is taking steps to destroy it. The first crackdown didn’t silence the young, so now the theocracy is going after them with a vengeance. The universities, which have been the breeding grounds of dissent, are now being flooded with government clerics, who will spy on students and stifle free speech. In an even more blatant move, the regime has sought to wrest outright control of educational institutions away from the non-profits that run them.

While fighting on that front, the theocracy is also taking aim at the young’s more relaxed social attitudes. The government’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance recently published a list of approved hairstyles for men that barbers must stick to when cutting their clients’ locks: a response to stylings that are quiet protests against the Islamic Republic’s distaste for personal freedom. If men have it bad, women certainly have it worse. The morality police have stepped up their arrests of females who don’t adequately cover up and those who don’t conform to the nation’s ridiculous dress code. This primarily affects the young, who are resistant to gender inequality and who give little heed to the Islamic Republic’s mandated separation of the sexes.

Iranian men with "un-Islamic" hairstyles.

The Iranian regime might be for some time kept afloat by guns and thugs, but a government that lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the people and keeps control through brute force, will face a day of reckoning. Time is on the side of the young, who make up 70 percent of the population, and who will soon enough wield political power that matches their numbers. Eventually, the tree of liberty will grow in Persia, given life by the blood of tyrants.*

*This sentence is paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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