Study: Most Iranians want regime change as protests grow in country

As protests against the Islamic regime continue in Iran, a new study by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change found that 84% of Iranians support regime change. The study also found that Iranian society has become more secular, encompassing both genders, all age groups and rural-urban areas.

The findings were published on Tuesday by Kasra Arabi and Jemima Shelley, and compare polling from June 2020 and February 2022. It revealed overwhelming support for the mandatory hijab policy with 70% of men and 74% of women opposed. More than three-quarters consider religion to be unimportant in their lives, and they prefer a more secular life than the current theocratic one.

The study comes at a time of great pressure against the regime after the death of Mahsa Amini, who died two months ago in September after being assaulted by the regime’s morality police for allegedly not wearing the hijab properly.

Students of the Sharif University of Technology take part in a protest on October 7, 2022 that began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country's morality police, in Tehran, Iran.

Students of the Sharif University of Technology take part in a protest on October 7, 2022 that began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police, in Tehran, Iran.
(AP Photo)

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The demonstrations have spread to 140 cities and towns, posing the most significant challenge to the Islamic republic in more than a decade. At least 326 protesters, including 43 children and 25 women, have died in violent crackdowns by security forces, according to Iran Human Rights. Some groups claim that more than 500 protesters have been killed.

Human rights activist News Agency, which is based outside the country, has said that 15,800 protesters have been detained. There is also news of the death of 39 security personnel.

A giant mural of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, painted next to a smaller one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Motahari Street, March 8, 2020, in Tehran, Iran.  reads the message on the wall "America's power and influence and dignity in the world are declining and being destroyed" And on top of the building, another slogan reads "We are standing till the end."

A giant mural of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, painted next to a smaller one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Motahari Street, March 8, 2020, in Tehran, Iran. The message on the wall reads “America’s power and influence and dignity in the world is on the verge of collapse and destruction” and another slogan on the top of the building reads “We stand to the end.”
(Photo by Kveh Kazemi / Getty Images)

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The Tony Blair Institute study was conducted in Iran with a view to analyze and measure the group. Given the Iranian government’s censorship and surveillance of its citizens, the group used encrypted online surveys, digital tools, and other alternative methods to securely capture the honest opinions of Iranians. Organizers said that doing so allows participants to truthfully answer questions about sensitive topics without regard for their own safety.

Kasra Arabi, Iran Program Lead in TBI’s Extremism Policy Unit and co-author of the paper, pointed out that over the past decade the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program has dominated Western policy and the media agenda on Iran. “However, this could not be further from the truth. Discontent in Iran is fueled by life under a totalitarian misogynist regime that has consistently prioritized the interests of its hardline Islamist ideology above those of the Iranian people.”

A police motorcycle burns during a protest against the death of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by the Islamic Republic's morality police, in Tehran, Iran, September 19, 2022.

A police motorcycle burns during a protest against the death of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by the Islamic Republic’s morality police, in Tehran, Iran, September 19, 2022.
(West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

“The poll published in our paper today makes it clear that these protests are not about reforms, but regime change,” he said.

Jemima Shelley, a researcher at the TBI’s Extremism Policy Unit and co-author of the new paper, explained that compulsory hijab is not just a women’s rights issue; It represents one of the important pillars of the authoritarian regime ruling over all Iranians.”

Iran protests rage in the streets as authorities renew threats

Covered Iranian women attend an event in support of the observance of the Islamic dress code for women in Tehran, Iran, July 11, 2019.  Some brave women in Iran's capital are taking off their mandatory hijabs, or hijabs, in public.  Risking arrest and drawing the ire of fanatics.  Many others stopped flaunting outright and opted for looser scarves that show off as much hair as they cover.  More women are pushing back against the dress code imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and activists say the rebellion against the hijab is the most visible form of anti-government protest in Iran today.

Covered Iranian women attend an event in support of the observance of the Islamic dress code for women in Tehran, Iran, July 11, 2019. Some brave women in Iran’s capital are taking off their mandatory hijabs, or hijabs, in public. Risking arrest and drawing the ire of fanatics. Many others stopped flaunting outright and opted for looser scarves that show off as much hair as they cover. More women are pushing back against the dress code imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and activists say the rebellion against the hijab is the most visible form of anti-government protest in Iran today.
(AP Photo/Wahid Salemi)

In his institute’s report, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair commended Iranian protesters for their “extraordinary bravery and courage over the past two months”. Blair also called on the international community to “show our deep solidarity with the protesters, who risk their lives for something we often take for granted.” Blair continued, “It is time we reorient our policy in the West in a way that makes a clear distinction between the people of Iran and the Islamic Republic. Our efforts must serve the East.”

UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Tuesday condemned Iran’s increasingly harsh and deadly crackdown on mass protests. He urged the Iranian authorities to “address people’s demands for equality, dignity and rights, instead of using unnecessary or disproportionate force to suppress protests.”

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Thursday, 24 November, to address the “deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

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