In the wave of protests in Iran that started with the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, the main targets of protesters in the streets and on social media have been the “ideological coefficients” of the Islamic Republic. But what is an “ideological coefficient”?
In the newfangled literature about security, an “ideological coefficient” is a concept or a symbol that a regime uses to buy time when trying to put down unrests and uprisings and to reduce the ideological divide between the government and the people it governs.
In this process, the values and the ideology of the ruling regime are promoted and reproduced. If, as time goes by, a regime fails to reproduce its “ideological coefficient”, especially for the younger generation, it puts itself in real danger because people’s values and interests gradually change, and the divide between their demands and expectations and what the government offers grows deeper.
A study published by Imam Hossein University, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), touches upon the “ideological coefficient” of the Islamic Republic. Titled “Strengthening the Ideological Coefficient As a Key Factor in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s National Security”, the study shows which ideological concepts have the highest influence.
In its introduction, the study argues, “The national security of any country is one of the most important achievements of any political system, and other areas of development and progress of society are completed under its shadow. One of the main supports for strengthening and maximizing national security is the ideological coefficient of each country, whose components and indicators can be different in each society. These components and indicators fade with time and are sometimes forgotten, and if they are not passed on to the next generations through retelling and reproduction, after some time the ideological coefficient, which is considered the most important support for the national security of a country, is weakened. As a result, national security decreases and threats increase”.
According to this study, “values”, “national identity”, “figures of pride”, “national religious ceremonies and rites” and “political participation” have been the most important components of the “ideological coefficient” in the Islamic Republic and still are, even though their relative degree of importance has fluctuated in the past four decades of the clerical regime.
The study maintains that the more people share these values and beliefs with the ruling regime, the more they would be resilient in the face of adversities.
In the current nationwide protests, a considerable number of traditional supporters of the Islamic Republic and religious forces have joined the protests, at least on social media. Some religious elements have joined the opponents and critics of the regime despite the fact that they share many religious values with the ruling establishment.
According to the study, “national religious identity” plays a significant role in the stability of the government in Iran.
National identity, or “historical identity”, has turned into a serious competitor to religious identity in Iran, and Islamic Republic officials use it to suppress protests by raising the threat of secessionism.
“Figures of pride” or “role models” is yet another component of identity that has been promoted by the Islamic Republic in the past four decades. Examples of “martyrs” and people who offer themselves in sacrifice have been extensively promoted to strengthen the ideological underpinnings of the regime.
The study states that “these figures can serve as role models for today’s generation. Their characters and their deeds can work as a guide showing them the right direction, compatible with the values and the goals of the revolution and the regime of the Islamic Republic”.
The study also lists “national religious ceremonies and rites” as parameters with high “ideological coefficient”. As examples, it points to the anniversary of the February 1979 victory of the Islamic Revolution and Quds Day in support of the Palestinians on December 30. Of course, according to some studies, such ceremonies and celebrations have been losing steam continuously.
The study names “political participation” as an indicator with a high “ideological coefficient” in the Islamic Republic, something that has been disappearing in Iran, especially in recent years as fewer people have been participating in presidential and parliamentary elections.
After examining these indicators, the study has asked a group of experts to name those they consider as the most important in ensuring the stability of the Islamic Republic. The 36 collected questionnaires show that these experts believe Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, religion and General Ghasem Soleimani, the former commander of the expeditionary Quds Force who was killed in a January 2020 U.S. drone strike near Baghdad, are the top five priorities for “influencing the ideological coefficient”.
The study warns that if the Islamic Republic does not give priority to reproducing and retelling these five indicators, it would face numerous threats.
In its own way, this study explains why Khamenei and Soleimani have been among the main targets of protesters’ slogans, and why there has been a sustained trend among angry Iranians to vandalize or burn monuments and portraits raised in honor of these two figures.
For years now, Khamenei and Soleimani have been the main symbols of the Islamic Republic, and its propaganda machine has made them figures that cannot be criticized in any way. The sanctification of these two figures is meant to solidify the ideological foundation of the regime.