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Protests, discrimination and the future of minorities in Iran

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This briefing examines how discrimination of minorities has contributed to rising tensions and long-standing grievances in Iran. It highlights patterns of repression of minority activism, languages and cultures, and to varying degrees, the exclusion of ethnic and religious minorities from public life and economic development. In particular, the briefing focuses on the experiences of ethnic minorities in the borderland regions of the country where the centralizing impulse of the Islamic Republic of Iran has manifested itself in the attempted assimilation of minorities, repression of regional demands for self-governance and periodic episodes of violence. Using a minority rights lens, the briefing contextualises and historicises the social uprising that was sparked in September 2022 with the custodial death of Jina Amini, also known as Mahsa Amini. It provides insight into some of the conditions that have fuelled protestor demands in recent years including, environmental problems, political corruption, widespread economic crises and repression of civil society.

This briefing ultimately emphasizes identity-based discrimination as a root cause of many of the conditions that have led to the 2022 civil society uprising. Although the political future of Iran remains uncertain and the pathway of change is unclear at the time of writing, this briefing argues that a peaceful and prosperous future for minorities cannot be secured unless efforts are undertaken to address long-standing and structural discrimination at all levels.

While this briefing focuses on discrimination against minorities, a detailed and complementary analysis and account of gender-based discrimination in Iran can be found in the report ‘Beyond the Veil: Discrimination against women in Iran’ ‘Beyond the Veil: Discrimination against women in Iran’ by Minority Rights Group International, Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Centre for Supporters of Human Rights.

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