Iran’s Presidential Election: Youth Divided by 2022 Protests

Atousa, now 22, participated in the 2022 protests against the Iranian government, which Reza, a 26-year-old member of the Basij militia, helped suppress. Their contrasting views on the protests highlight the deep political divisions in Iran. Atousa plans to abstain from voting in the upcoming presidential election, considering it a meaningless exercise, while Reza intends to vote, emphasizing his support for the Islamic Republic.

All six candidates in the election – five hardliners and one moderate – are actively campaigning for the support of young voters, who comprise 60% of Iran’s population. Atousa believes the election is a sham and that the president has no real power under Iran’s clerical system. She has joined many others in using the hashtag #ElectionCircus on social media to express their dissatisfaction.

Atousa’s involvement in the 2022 protests, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody, resulted in her arrest and expulsion from university. The Basij militia played a key role in suppressing the protests, which were the largest show of opposition to the Iranian government in years.

Reza, who believes it is his religious duty to vote, supports a hardline candidate who promotes economic self-sufficiency and closer ties with regional countries. He blames the protests for attracting international pressure on Iran, while Atousa remains hopeful for change despite the heavy price she paid for her participation in the protests.