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Why dictators should fear women

Police arresting a protester in Moscow last week

Wouldn’t it be fitting if the macho regime in Moscow, and the misogynistic one in Tehran, were brought down by women? “The possibility is no longer remote,” says Bret Stephens in The New York Times. Protests in Iran, sparked by the apparent police killing of a woman wearing her hijab improperly, “are the most serious since the Green Revolution of 2009”. The security services have been “overwhelmed” by their scale, and there are reports that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who had a firm hand on the tiller 13 years ago – is gravely ill. “But the biggest factor is the female factor.” The demonstrations are led by women, and unlike in 1979, when they protested against the hijab alone, this time men are at their side.

It’s a similar story in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilisation” has seen military-age men “fleeing for the border”, but women are “taking to the streets” in protest. There is significant precedent here: it was organisations of soldiers’ mothers who helped put an end to Russia’s first disastrous war in Chechnya in the early 1990s, and their lobbying also undermined the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Now, for each of the 300,000 young men “Putin seeks to turn into cannon fodder”, there are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends who have been mobilised too – but against the Kremlin. “They have a better chance of taking Moscow than the Russian army will ever have of taking Kharkiv or Kyiv.”