Secularism by definition is:
Secularism is a belief system that rejects religion, or the belief that religion should not be part of the affairs of the state or part of public education.
In Iran currently, there is a religious regime ruling. The regime and the laws haven’t changed since the 1979 revolution, but people have changed. They became more liberal, the youth generation is not that religious anymore, they are much more educated and they are connected to the world more than ever, so:
Will Iran ever return to a secular government?
There are two paths that can lead to a secular Iran:
Iran’s government although has a lot of problems, and doesn’t have a good situation relating to human rights and freedom, is giving Iranian people stability and safety in an extremely unstable region. There are active terrorist groups all around Iran planning to attack Iran for years but there has been no instability in Iran. And although Iran doesn’t have a great economy it is growing pretty fast:
And also when you compare Iran situation in human rights, to other countries in the region it is not that terrible, although it is bad almost all other countries in the region have the same situation.
For a revolution to happen you need an organization against the regime that operates within the people, and also people angry enough to risk their lives to change the regime. Iran currently has none of the two above. And it seems unlikely that a group against the regime is going to form any time soon. There have been many people trying to form this kind of groups but they all have been destroyed over one night. Also, people of Iran seem to understand that the region is unstable and they seem to do not like the idea of another revolution, why? Because 40 million out of 56 million of them participated in the recent election, but more than 23 million of them chose the liberal-moderate government, showing that they want better relations with the USA and Europe and they want changes relating to human rights and freedom.
So another revolution at least in near future seems unlikely to happen.
Changes inside the regime.
Iran regime is heavily dependent on being an “Islamic republic” with laws having deep ties with Islamic rules and the main propaganda of regime being in favor of “Islam” and against what they call “anti-Islamic powers”.
This and the current policies of Iran shows that we are far away from seeing the Republic of Iran and not the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But this is the secularism by the classic definition, although it seems unlikely that we can ever see Iran’s government changing the rules and naming itself a secular regime, because for this to happen Iran needs to change a lot of country’s main laws and propagandas. But I think we may be able to see a somewhat secular Iran, let me explain somethings before saying what I mean by a “somewhat secular government”.
Rules in Iran are kinda different than western countries. I mean, for example, imagine USA having a law that prevents you from wearing a bikini and also imagine human watch and activists do not complain about the law. What will happen if someone comes in the streets with a bikini? Police arrests them! Without any exceptions because it’s the law. But in Iran, it’s not like that. For example being an atheist in Iran (to be more exact converting from Islam to atheism) is a crime in Iran and they can kill you for it, but I’m still alive and also there haven’t been anyone killed since 1990 for being an atheist, although many are atheist. Or another example is hijab! In Iran, you should cover all your hair if you are a woman, but you can see almost every woman in Iran (especially young and educated ones) barely covering half of their hair! And they pass the police without any problem! And this is different from in every city and neighborhood, go to a high-class neighborhood in Tehran and you-you can literally wear anything you want, go to a low-class neighborhood in a small city and people will call you names if you don’t wear chador.
A lot of the rules and talks in Iran are for conservatives, they have inside use and are necessary for propaganda for example when Iran’s leader says: “We are going to stand in front of USA and destroy Israel and they can’t do anything.” Of course, he knows he can’t do that and they can do anything they want but with saying those he is making 16 million out of 85 million population of Iran calm and happy, and that’s necessary because mostly those 16 million are in power.
The rules might not change, there might still be a law to hang gay people. But they are not going to actually do it, as I know many gay people living in Iran, with problems but alive. Like the hijab, I told you about and like the “ertedad” rule I told you about (converting from Islam).
We probably are not going to see the Islamic Republic of Iran changing to the Republic of Iran in near future (25 to 50 years) but we might see the laws in practice become secular and there is a strong chance that this actually happen, Iran’s laws are weird and if you are not from Iran you will not understand why it’s like that, if you live in Iran you probably break at least one law per day, but you know you are not going to jail. With people becoming more educated and more aware the regime needs to loosen the laws a bit so they can stay in power, and they know it, the fact that Iran’s leader allowed the president-elect of Iran literally attack him shows that he knows people need to see there is some battle going on, or some people in government trying to change the laws and they are not that religious (although it mostly shows it’s enough to fool people). The fact that he seems to finally understand that he can’t rule people of Iran how North Korea’s leader is ruling his people, and that is good enough for most Iranians. This although doesn’t actually deeply change anything but on the surface and in practice it does, and that is enough to start progressing.
Laws in Iran are written in a way so that if the regime really wants to kill someone or a group of people they can, and if they want to do the opposite they can do that too, it is extremely dependent on the leader and the government.
The real power in Iran is in the hands of Iran’s leader, one of the things that can help this speed up is that Khamenei passes away. Rumors say he is going to die in the next four years and if someone even a tiny little bit less conservative comes in power everything is going to change a lot.
Iran is probably going to become a secular regime on surface in near future without actually saying it (without changing name or laws) But I don’t think we are going to see an actual secular regime in Iran in near future, we are going to still accept the fact that only a shia can be the president and the laws are laws of Islam, but in people’s everyday life and not in rare circumstances, we can hope that people of Iran in big cities live a mostly secular life.