The people and the rulers of the Islamic Republic have fought for different ends over the past several decades. Most Iranians have struggled for a better standard of living, more egalitarian distribution of wealth and income, and greater political rights and civil liberties. During the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini and other leaders of the revolution repeatedly promised to grant political freedom and serve the interest of the downtrodden. Once in power, however, the Islamic Republic’s rulers pursued a very different agenda. In lieu of fulfilling the revolution’s fundamental demands, the clerical rulers introduced social and cultural changes that relegated women to second class citizenship, imposed restrictions on civil liberties, prohibited venerated cultural practices and expressions, and violated established rights and interests. None of these changes were part of the demands of the major collectivities that took part in the overthrow of the monarchy. Prior to the revolution, social and cultural issues largely resided in the private sphere, outside the political domain. The clergy’s impositions of these changes sharply contradicted popular expectations. The new rulers failed to resolve the underlying economic and political contradictions and conflicts that caused the revolution. Instead, they introduced traditional Islamic practices and restricted various social and cultural freedoms that Iranians enjoyed before the revolution. In sum, decades after the formation of the Islamic Republic, Iranian society is more polarized than ever before. On the one hand, the regime insists on the continuation of the theocratic structures. On the other hand, people are engaged in passive resistance and refuse to live in accordance with the rules of the theocracy. The persisting conflicts have compelled the regime to resort to endless repression. More importantly, the contradictions have generated irreconcilable conflicts and set the stage for protests and clashes.

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