Findings on the effect of repression on political participation are mixed and inconclusive. This article addresses this puzzle by introducing and conceptualizing ‘responses to repression’ as individuals’ varying willingness to risk-taking and continuing with political activities despite possible threats. We use three-wave panel survey data and focus on the run-up to the 2013 Iranian presidential elections, during which the gradual decline in political participation of Green Movement supporters turned into a remarkable increase in activism. The findings indicate that the decision to either refrain from or resist repression plays an important role in explaining some forms of political participation. And, in turn, this decision to either refrain or resist is influenced by social-psychological factors: Iranian Green Movement (IGM) supporters who experienced less fear, were more aggrieved and perceived lower levels of repression than other supporters, were more inclined to embrace risks. Consequently, they more frequently engaged in everyday forms of resistance – covert activities, which are difficult to be controlled and surveilled by states. It implies that social movement supporters in repressive contexts cannot only ignore the risks associated with activism and continue with the same activity but can also find or invent other forms of political activity to resist repression.
- The article demonstrates the relevance of individual agency and social movement supporters’ responses to repression for understanding political participation in the case of severe repression.
- Mobilizing and shaping people’s perceptions of their grievances, fears and levels of repression are effective instruments to enhance the willingness of risk-taking, and continuing with political activities despite possible threats.
- To grasp and push for democratic change, policy makers should not only focus on the most tangible disruptive protest forms, such as street demonstrations but also acknowledge the importance of more covert everyday forms of resistance, such as persuasion activities by movement supporters in face-to-face and online discussions.