Red paint thrown by protesters at a large street mural of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeni and Ali Khamenei. October, 2022

Red paint thrown by protesters at a large street mural of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeni and Ali Khamenei. October, 2022

Sociologists Say Lack Of Public Trust Driving Iran Protests

Thursday, 02/16/2023

In a new book, two Iranian academics argue that Iranian have lost trust in the regime, which is perceived as inefficient and mired in discriminatory behavior.

“An unhappy crowd takes to the streets when it has no other way to voice its dissatisfaction with the current situation. We have explained in this book that political participation in Iran has been declining and a large majority of the people believe that the official power structure is inefficient and corrupt," one of the authors said.

In an interview with Mohsen Goudarzi and Abdolmohammad Kazemipour the authors of the newly published book, "What happened? The story of decline of Iranian society," Reformist daily Shargh's editor Ahmad Gholami discussed recent protests against the backdrop of long-standing dissent.

The book by the two prominent sociologists was published when Iranian protesters took over the streets and many political analysts and scholars tried to explain the uprising. The authors of this book were particularly focused on the declining social capital and public trust in Iran.

The authors examined the "vertical trust" between the people and the government, which they believe has eroded during the past decades because of the serious inefficiency of the government and a closed system that did not allow political participation. This, the authors believe, has made it difficult for the government to convince the public about its narrative. They have also examined the "horizontal trust" between the members of the public and social groups.

Sociologist Mohsen Goudarzi (C). Undated

They have also observed that the four waves of protests between 2009 and 2022 were different from each other in their form and nature. Kazemipor said about the differences and similarities between these movements: "There are some key concepts in the book that might be helpful. These include the horizontal and vertical trusts."

He added that in the 2009 Green Movement, both of these types of trust were still in place, while in the following waves of protests, the vertical trust in particular had declined. The horizontal trust between citizens was also lost to some extent.

Kazemipour continued: "In 2009 the project for change was a more or less reformist movement. It was not radical. That indicated that the links between the government and society were still in place. So, people could still have hope in gradual reforms."

Abdolmohammad Kazemipour

"Meanwhile, the society had just seen the performance of a reformist government that had its links to civil and occupational activists. This means there was a strong horizontal trust. However, in 2018 and 2019 and 2022 both the horizontal and vertical trusts were weakened," Kazemipour added: "One can even say the vertical communication was totally lost in 2022 and that is clear in the nature of the protesters' slogans which were focused mainly on what people did not want. They no longer demanded a particular reform, action or behavior from the country's power structure."

Goudarzi said: "Analyzing the movement based on the main idea of this book requires access to more data. For instance, we do not know exactly about the age range, socio-economic class and the attitudes of the protesters. We do not know what segments of the society were present in the streets and who was absent and what made the two groups different from each other. If we had those information, we could tell more precisely how their characteristics were linked to the movement."

Goudarzi added that "the people believe the government has not been successful during the past four decades in anything other than maintaining the country's security, and even in that area the state's success has not been eye-catching. The people believe that the government has certainly failed in the economy…civil liberties. People feel they are discriminated against. This feeling of discrimination is a major source of anger."

Goudarzi added: "The people do not believe that government offices or organizations belong to them. As a result, their trust in clerics, judges and government officials have been declining during the past decades and people turned their back to official institutions and even political groups and factions."

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