CMC Keck Center talk ‘The Revolution Will Be a Remix’ shines a light on Iran protests

Malekzadeh has taught across various universities on Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, including Williams and Swarthmore College. (Anna Shobe • The Student Life)

As Iran protests over the death of Mahsa Jina Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian women killed by Islamic Republic police over alleged improper hijab conduct, continue into their tenth week, CMC’s Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies invited guest speaker and professor Shervin Malekzadeh to provide some context on the escalating situation in Iran. 

The Keck Center worked in collaboration with student-run organization Center for International Relations Society (CIRS). CIRS approached Keck Center organizer Dr. Evin Menzini about hosting a talk with an expert on Iran, and after an extensive search, they invited Malekzadeh. 

Malekzadeh has taught on Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies across various universities, including Williams College and Swarthmore College. His talk on Monday, Nov. 14, spanned various topics such as Iran’s hundred-year democracy movement, the culture of revolution that is inherent to Iranian society today and how women and Gen Z are at the forefront of those fighting for change. 

“One thing I want you to take from this lecture is that continuity is inimical to change in Iran,” Malekzadeh said. “Put more bluntly, the language and demands of protests are inextricable from officials from the past. Revolution, if it comes, it will not be a rupture. Again, it will be a remix. Demonstrations of close revolutionary Iran have been powerful because they’re familiar. They’re legible to the state and society of life.”

Malekzadeh also emphasized the culture of revolution that the Islamic Republic actively cultivates, with annual celebrations of the end of the Shah’s rule and how ingrained the right to a democracy is in the education system. This culture of revolution naturally fosters revolt against the Islamic Republic.

“So these tools and mechanisms for resistance come from elements of domination or from officials where there is injustice, [and] Iranians are told to protest, revolt,” he said. “So it should come as no surprise that today, and then the holidays, practices, slogans and spaces that constitute the Islamic Republic of Iran, provides its citizens with a ready arsenal to use against a state that continues to repeat the mistakes of the very regime they overthrew over four decades ago.”

Malekzadeh also touched on how what Iranian people are fighting for looks different than what Americans might think liberation looks like. He emphasized that what Iranians are demanding is the freedom to choose whether to wear a headscarf or not and to choose whether to espouse Islam or not. Iranian people are fighting for the freedom that men and women can eat in public side-by-side or to play music on speakers in the street. 

“The aim might be not for revolution, but rather what we might call extraordinary ordinariness,” he said. “Just a kind of ordinary life on a Tehran Metro. Nobody’s bothering you. If you want to wear the chador … you can, [and], if you want to dye your hair [you can].” 

Malekzadeh concluded the talk by expressing how these protests are somewhat different from protests in the Islamic Republic’s past, like the Green Movement in 2009. The media has paid attention to how women are the front-liners in the protests, but what’s especially remarkable is the mobility of Gen Z in the fight against the Islamic Republic. As the first generation who has only ever known the Islamic Republic, their zeal is part of what is propelling the protests forward. 

“Collective action is important to me as a Hungarian who sees Hungarians continually turn out to protest against the regime, but no change is made. As we can see, there’s some of that in Iran.”

Adam Terenyi CM '25

Students found that Malekzadeh’s talk illuminated the unfolding situation in Iran in ways they didn’t expect. Adam Terenyi CM ’25 expressed how vital it is for 5C students to be informed about what’s happening in Iran.

“Collective action is important to me as a Hungarian who sees Hungarians continually turn out to protest against the regime, but no change is made,” Terenyi said. “As we can see, there’s some of that in Iran.”

Josh Morganstein CM ’25 admired Malekzadeh’s cautiousness when approaching an event that is unfolding in the present moment. 

“It’s important that whenever a protest arises, or whenever a current event arises, and we’re sort of in the moment trying to explain it that we’re sort of tentative and cautious with our predictions, and he was, and I feel like he gave the proper respect to the topic that it needed,” Morganstein said. 

Margo Cohen CM ’25, CIRS board member, explained why the CIRS board found it vital that they spotlight the escalating protests in Iran. 

“Teaching about the history of Iranian revolution and Iranian political participation is so important for students, no matter where they live or what they study,” Cohen said via email. “At the 5Cs, many students learn how to work on the cutting edge of an array of fields, and a key aspect of this leadership is understanding global conflict and conflict-resolution strategies … Teaching about Iranian politics helps 5C students mature and explore, meaning that this supplementation of IR and GE curriculum is not only ideal, but vital for student advancement.”

Menzini, who helped organize the event, stressed the importance of educating oneself on current events. 

“[Bringing awareness to global issues] fosters responsible and active citizenship,” Menzini said. “Curiosity about the world outside [oneself and] an educated viewpoint … in my opinion [are] the strongest tool[s] that lead to change — knowledge leads to change, right?”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the last name of Josh Morganstein CM ’25 as “Morgenstein.” It has been updated to reflect the correct spelling. TSL regrets this error.

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