The ongoing protests in Iran have given rise to debates about the significance and implications of Iran's Generation Z that is defying rules and restrictions.
This is a generation that is also called the social media generation who were born after the year 2000, although teenagers as young as 12 now are protesting in Iran.
They are absolutely different from the previous generations in Iran. For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, this is a generation that has not been affected by state propaganda and enforced lifestyle. On the contrary, thanks to the Internet and satellite television, they know how other young people live elsewhere in the world and they find life under the restrictions imposed by the clerical regime humiliating.
As the current protests began more than two weeks ago, people noticed youngsters between the ages of 15-25 leading demonstrations in the streets carrying their backpacks and mostly dressed in black. They were not so afraid of Iran’s security forces as previous generations had been and were ready to break taboos.
Already, many girls and women among them walk around without hijab, while the protests started when a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini was arrested by the hijab police and died in their custody with severe head injuries.
Schoolgirls without hijab driving out an education ministry official who came to convince the to "behave".
In an interview with Iran's leading economic daily Donyaye Eqtesad, Iranian sociologist and author Maghsoud Farastkhah tried to explain what is it that Iran's Generation Z wants. The interview was published on October 3, on the same day that Iran's high school and junior high school students joined the nationwide uprising.
According to Farasatkhah, to put it simply, Iran's new generation wants the right to live a normal life. However, they cannot not express their demands in the closed political system. The academic added that for the first time in Iran, the new generation's parents sympathize with them.
"Generation Z sees itself in a dystopian atmosphere," said the academic, adding that out of despair, they wish to express themselves by opting to resist the status quo even at the price of their lives. What Farasatkhah explains can be possibly best described as hopelessness. The reason why they act boldly and courageously is because they received a lot of attention by their parents and are self-confident.
This is a society suffering from inefficient governance, chaos and trauma. Everyone feels to have been victimized and overwhelmed by violence and accumulated shortcomings.
Farasatkhah further explained that the generation of the 2000s wants social freedoms, but it is not allowed to choose the lifestyle it likes. When the government imposes its own traditional lifestyle, it tends to resist, and this resistance is stronger among women because there are always more challenges for them than for men.
In a nutshell, Farasatkhah said that Generation Z has no epic to uphold and no hope for the future.
Another sociologist Taqi Azad Armaki said in an interview that Generation Z knows what it wants and it also knows that it is difficult to get it. Nonetheless, they will not become anarchists. Armaki added that Generation Z is not idealist. They simply want to live a normal life characterized by welfare, freedom and human rights. "But we have deprived them of this life. We have sent them to schools and universities, but we cannot give them a job. So, they have skills that they cannot use," Armaki explained.
The sociologist said: "We should stop calling them decadent, illiterate and morally corrupt. “These labels will prompt them to react in a radical way. We need to talk to them, but this needs to be done by intellectuals and social leaders."
Meanwhile, conservative politician and commentator Mohammad Mohajeri acknowledged that "it is difficult to deal with Generation Z." They do not care what traditions say about everything. The new generation has a different concept of freedom. On the other hand, while the previous generation got ideas from books, the new generation gets its ideas from social media. Mohajeri also pointed out that Generation Z has no leader and does not want to have leaders. They work like a tsunami and surprise the officials who have no idea about how to deal with them. Their only solution is to introduce more restrictions so that they can control the society. And this further annoys the new generation.