Iranians have Agency

There’s much to discuss and discern regarding recent events in Iran but for me the starting point is to not deny Iranians inside the country their agency.

Doubtless, there is a tendency among Iranians both abroad and within the government to cast protesters as agents of a foreign conspiracy–mindless robots willing to sacrifice their lives at the behest of a foreign agenda.

For instance, Iranians in the diaspora still argue that the Iranian Revolution was a Western conspiracy. To say so, is to deny Iranians of the bygone era of their grievances as well as their ability to conduct their own cost-benefit analysis in terms of risking their lives for the revolution.

Mirroring many in the Iranian community abroad, the government similarly denied Iranians their agency both in 2009 and now, accusing them of being agents of a Western conspiracy.

To be sure, it is the height of arrogance for anybody to cast those with whom he or she disagrees as agents of imperialism devoid of the mental capacity to conduct their own cost-benefit analysis. They certainly have grievances–social, political, and economic.

That is not to say that foreign governments–specifically Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the US–have not long tried to overthrow the Iranian government–whether it was funding, arming, and providing diplomatic cover at the UN in support of Iraq’s invasion of Iran in the 80s, or providing support for separatist movements in recent years, or working in tandem with previously categorized terror groups to orchestrate attacks within the country, or Trump repeatedly trying to ban Iranians from coming to the US, but it’s an entirely different thing to see the protests in the context of those self-interested and hypocritical governments and groups. I say hypocritical because, for example, Israel’s premier came out in support of the Iran protests while forcefully denying Palestinians that same right.

In sum, it is an insult of the highest order to paint these aggrieved Iranians protesting today as part of some conspiracy. In the same vein, it is equally offensive to them to latch any political agenda from abroad onto them. They protest in peril to express their grievances and for their own calculated objectives.

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