Mission Impossible? The Likelihood of Democracy in Iran

Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science and International Studies

Department or Program Chair

Alison Howard, MA

First Reader

Gigi Gokcek, PhD


Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has been considered by many to be a volatile state. With its strong Islamic beliefs and the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons, Iran appears as a threat to Western states. A possible solution for this world tension is for Iran to shift from a theocratic authoritarian state to a democracy. However, the question is: What is the likelihood of Iran someday becoming a democracy? Under what circumstances would Iran move from an authoritarian regime to a democracy? While many believe that Iran will continue to be a stark contrast to Western democracy, I believe that a governmental change from Iran’s theocracy to a democratic state is possible. The reasons for my arguments are because Iran’s economy is unstable; it has a 12.5% unemployment rate and an inflation rate of 9%; it faces sanctions from Western countries and suffers from the depreciating value of the Iranian Rial. In addition, more than half of Iran’s population is 35 years old and younger, and has no memory of what the country was like under the Shah. This means they constantly feel repressed under the clerics, who are currently running the country, and do not recall a time when Iran was ruled by a secular monarch. This paper relies on a multi-disciplinary body of literature to analyze which types of authoritarian regimes are most stable, and which ones are most likely to transition to democracy. This narrative analysis of Iran provides insight into the stability of the Islamic Republic’s dictatorship, and the likelihood for change.

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