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When Governments Give a Little, the People Want More

February 7, 2018
Plain English Version

An Iranian women walking past the British embassy. She is wearing what is called a “bad hijab.” Photo credit: Kenare/AFP Getty Images

There is an old saying about the “revolution of rising expectations.” It means that loosening restrictions whets the appetite of people for “more.”

This can enrage the enforcers of religious doctrine. It can affect nationalists who want a return to the ‘old way.’

Here is an example of rising expectations. The United States worked to end racial segregation in the 1960s. Black people took this to mean their lives would improve. It did improve for many, but not enough. Race riots in U.S. cities were one result.

This is an example of nationalism. The fall of the Soviet Union took place. Freedom broke out in Eastern European countries. Now, twenty-five years later, some repressive regimes are coming back.

Iran is a new example to keep an eye on. It is a powerful and rich country. In 1979 Iran was a Western type country. It was becoming more liberal. There was a reaction to these developments. A religious revolution took place.

Iran is now in the struggle about which way to go. The people recently elected a moderate president to a second term in office. He promised to improve the economy. And to provide more schools and social programs. But a theocracy, a religion, is in charge of the nation. So, a clash between the two, the moderates and the religious, was going to happen. And it has.

There were protests in cities in Iran last December. They were about the economy. It was failing to provide jobs. Another example may even be more important.

It is about the forced wearing of the hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Wearing it is a pillar of the Islamic Republic. The hijab must be plain. It cannot be an “adornment.” It is an edict of the ayatollah He is the religious leader of Iran.

The president of Iran is taking on the ayatollah on this subject. Many women support him. But how many? He just allowed the release of a survey. It showed that half the women in the country believe the decision to wear a hijab is theirs, not the government.

The survey is three years old. Why release it now? It may be because the president wants to get ahead of the revolution of rising expectations. He senses that young people want better lives and better things. It may also be that the survey helps him stay popular as a politician.

No matter the reason, women in Iran are trying to change the rules. They are protesting in the streets. Iran is a country to watch. It will say a lot about the Middle East of the future.

Source: The New York Times February 4, 2018

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