Protests in Iran

Jan. 12, 2018 Weekly Graphs

On December 28, a series of protests started throughout Iran as a reaction against the rising costs of living, but quickly changed to broader anti-government protests. Thousands of people joined the protests, authorities have detained hundreds, and many have been killed in the turmoil. This week’s graph looks at violence committed by government agents in Iran.

The V-Dem Physical Violence Index incorporates indicators reflecting freedom from political killings and torture by the government. These civil liberties are important for meaningful political competition and accountability. Higher values means that a country approaches this democratic ideal to a greater extent.

The graph shows that Iran generally scores lower on the Physical Violence Index than the average in the MENA region. We see somewhat higher scores right after the first parliamentary elections in 1941 and the abdication of Reza Shah until the CIA supported coup in 1953.

Following the coup, violence increased under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s autocratic rule, as indicated by the low scores. A low respect for physical integrity rights continued throughout the 1979 revolution, the Cultural Revolution in 1980, the Iran-Iraq war (1980 to 1988), and the complex post-war situation. Only in the late 1990s, the situation improved significantly. However, a new decline peaked around the 2009 presidential election and the Green Movement protests, and the most recent developments are likely to be reflected in a new decline when the index values are updated.

If you want to learn more about civil liberties in Iran and the MENA region, use our online analysis tools at

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