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ALM Special

Mahsa Amini protests hardened Europe's view on Iran, but nuclear strategy unchanged

Experts believe that Iran's export of drones to Russia for the Ukraine war more fundamentally shifted European policy toward the Islamic Republic than the protests.
Demonstrators hold placards reading "Women, Life, Freedom" as they demonstrate against the persecution of women in Iran, on Whitehall in central London on March 8, 2023.

One year on from Iran’s protests against the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody and the subsequent bloody crackdown by authorities, European views have hardened toward the Islamic Republic, but nuclear policy has barely been affected by the unrest. 

Amini’s death in police custody on Sept. 16, 2022, sparked waves of protests across the country against the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over alleged human rights violations and attitudes toward women. Many female protesters removed their hijabs or cut their hair at the demonstrations. Iran’s notorious morality police ruthlessly cracked down on dissenters, killing at least 476 people. The European Union and the United States sanctioned the morality police shortly after.

Damaged relations

Henry Rome, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes that there is no doubt that the protests — combined with Iran’s military support for Russia in Ukraine — shifted elite opinion in many European capitals. 

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