Iranian pundits increasingly point out that unlike previous protests driven by economic or electoral grievances, the current uprising demands regime change.
Reformist analyst Abbas Abdi openly said in an interview in Tehran that protests in 2009 did not call for regime change, but "the demand of current protesters is to change the regime. They do not know what will happen next, but they believe whatever that might take place will be better than the current situation."
Abdi said some of the characteristics of the current protests are that "They are deep-rooted, have taken the government by surprise, they have been continuing for a long time, and have gone further, in a way that it is impossible to return to the situation as it was before."
Abdi said that another characteristic of the movement is that the people have behaved in a way during the past 10 weeks that they can no longer retreat. They have challenged the core of the regime and Supreme Leader Ali khamenei.
He added that the main question is not, as some officials charge, that foreigners have instigated the protests. Even if we suppose that is true, it is not important who started the movement. “What is important is that it is taking place in Iran."
Abdi stressed that, "This is not a riot. This is a protest that was predicted long ago. The reason why it did not quickly follow the 2019 protests, was the coronavirus pandemic."
Iranian commentator Abbas Abdi
He added that the government was taken by surprise because it never pays attention to society. It is always watching other countries. All these youngsters in the streets have been in classrooms where teachers and headmasters have been in close contact with them. How could have they not noticed that something was going on? The reason they did not see it, is that no one in the government wishes to really see the society, even now when it is in turmoil. Even the intelligence organizations found out about the movement after they arrested the protesters."
Abdi said this comes while young people were not acting secretly. They even showed off what they are doing. He explained that generation Z is only the driving force of the movement. The other part, which is important but neglected is the silent majority that follows the movement. He said that many opinion polls the government did not allow to be published indicate that some 60 to 80 percent of the population support the youngsters in the streets although they may not be as vocal.
Silent protest by university students in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj on Nov. 15, 2022
Abdi's interview coincided with the publication of an interview with Iranian American sociologist Asef Bayat with Rouydad24 news website in Iran. Bayat is the author of books such as Revolution without Revolutionaries, Street Politics, and Global Middle East, whose observations about the Arab Spring are widely acclaimed in the US academic and political circles.
He said in the interview that it is in the nature of the street that a common cause can turn a gathering of 500 individuals into a massive rally of several thousand people.
Speaking about the current Iran protests and the violence and suppression that have been going on in the streets during the past 10 weeks, Bayat said: "People do not like to be on the streets. They want to live peacefully. The reason why people take to the streets is that politics stops working. Politics means an institutional mechanism to settle political, social and economic disputes and reach a democratic agreement. When the government cannot do that and does not allow the people to have their representatives in the government, citizens tend to take part in strikes or refuse to go to classrooms. But some citizens such as those who do not have a job might take to the streets to voice their demands and to show their social power."
He went on to say, "Authoritarian governments do not tolerate protesters presence in the streets because they do not want the people to believe in their collective social force."