In Iran, the protests are unified only by what they oppose, namely the female dress code and more broadly the theocracy. However, they’re not unified by political ideology, which frequently defaults to liberalism premised on individual freedoms when you watch interviews of Iranian activists.
Even the so-called “Syrian revolution” had a more coherent unifying ideology, albeit one demanding subordination to the former imperial power, Turkey, in the name of pan-Sunni Islamic unification.
The default liberalism in Iran, however, is no match for the fiery passion of the current legitimising ideology of the Iranian government, which quite simply has behind it a far larger body of men who are willing to die for the state.
Nations in that part of the world cannot survive unless they’re capable of cultivating in their men a willingness to die, otherwise, they get conquered by other nations with a stronger will to die.
Indeed, Jalal Al-e-Ahmad, whose writings inspired the Iranian revolution, was of the view that Persia fell to the Arab Muslim invasion in the 7th century because its legitimising ideology, Zoroastrianism, had lost its vigour.
“We invited Islam to come. Let us leave aside [the Persian Shah] Rustam Farrukhzad’s desperate defense of Sasanian chivalry and of a petrified Zoroastrianism. The people of Ctesiphon thronged in the lanes of the city, bread and dates in hand, to meet the Arabs as they went to plunder the royal palace…”. Ctesiphon was the capital of the Persian Sassanid empire, which became Baghdad following the Arab Muslim conquest.
The staying power of the Iranian government is that its base is willing to endure hardship. Look at Shaheed QS, his entire life was hardship, from watching his comrades die in the trenches while fighting Iraq, to travelling around the region to aid the resistance, to the point where towards the end of his life, he yearned for martyrdom.
In the words of Ayatollah Khomeini: “Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer”. Honour cultures produce such men, liberal cultures do not.
There is something ‘dharmic’ about the ruling Iranian ideology in that it has shown a great willingness to perform what it believes to be its national mission (including liberating Palestine) with no attachment to the negative consequences of that mission.
The default liberalism in Iran has the exact opposite vibe. It represents people who believe that Iran has over-extended itself overseas at the expense of the Iranian taxpayer, and has brought hostility upon itself by antagonising Israel and the West.
Yes, there is sizable opposition to the elected government and to the theocracy that sits above that government, although they’re probably not a majority. The voter turnout in last year’s elections were 48 percent, which is low by Iran’s standards. Crisis of legitimacy? Perhaps.
If default liberalism were to win power in Iran, what would its national strategy be? Economic and military capitulation to Israel and the West of the kind witnessed in the USSR under Gorbachev and Yeltsin? Capitulation to Kurdish and Balochi separatism? These outcomes are more likely with default liberalism.