Protests that began in mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini and then turned into more extensive demonstrations against the country’s extremely conservative regime have continued for the past 100 days. Between the end of 2017 and the end of 2019 there had already been some equally unprecedented and violent protests against rising prices and in favor of better economic conditions in Iran. Those of the last few months, however, are the most lasting and participated in since the 1979 revolution, which changed the history of the country: they mainly involve women and young students, but also sportsmen and celebrities, who have carried out and supported the protests, with many people killed, arrested or tortured.
The first protests were organized in Iranian Kurdistan (in the north-west of the country) after the alleged killing of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in prison on September 16 after being arrested by the religious police for not wearing the veil correctly. Soon they spread to a large part of Iran, involving in particular university students and many young people, who contested more widely the oppression of the regime and the role of the religious police, the body that is responsible for enforcing the strict rules of morality and religious decorum in force in Iran.
After almost three and a half months, the protests they are moving forward both in the capital Tehran and in other cities of the country, including Sanandaj, which is located in Kurdistan, Mashhad, in the north-east, and Bandar Abbas, in the south, on the Persian Gulf.
One of the most recurring gestures during the first phase of the female students’ protests was to remove or set fire to the Islamic veil (hijabs), chanting slogans against the theocratic regime that rules the country and against Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Guide, i.e. the most important political and religious figure of Iran. For some time, however, the custom has spread of approaching Islamic clerics to remove their turban and then run away: a gesture that is considered a symbol of the removal of power.
In recent weeks, however, protesters have begun to throw petrol bombs against several religious buildings and against the police.
A schoolgirl without a headscarf in Tehran knocks off a cleric’s turban & runs away. “#TurbanTossing is a campaign to protest against the symbol of access to the ruling system, privilege, corruption and oppression. #MahsaAmini #مهسا_امینی #عمامه_پرانی pic.twitter.com/rdwrTXQ2Nr
— Omid Memarian (@Omid_M) November 13, 2022
Throughout this time, the Iranian security forces have violently repressed the protests. Videos shared on social networks by civil rights NGOs show, among other things, the police shooting at the crowd and beating protesters, while testimonies from the families of several people killed or arrested speak of signs of torture, coerced confessions and people made to disappear.
According to the non-governmental organization HRANA, the news agency run by human rights activists in Iran, They were killed more than 500 demonstrators, including 69 minors. Thousands of other people were instead arrested and charged for participating in the protests. Various reporters they were sentenced to prison on charges of propaganda against the state.
Furthermore, the death sentence of two boys convicted of the crime has been carried out so far moharebehwhich can be translated as “enmity against God”. The first was arrested on charges of blocking a road in Tehran and assaulting and injuring a police officer; the second of stabbing and killing two members of the Iranian security forces. Both were hanged. At least 26 people were sentenced to death on very similar charges or risk being so, writes Amnesty International.
Despite the violent repression and some very vague promises by the regime, such as the abolition of the religious police and that of reviewing the rules on the compulsory veil, the protests continued and were supported across the country.
Before the match against England at the World Cup in Qatar, for example, the Iranian national team did not sing the national anthem in protest, prompting much criticism from the regime. One of the best-known Iranian actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti, was instead arrested and jailed on charges of having “incited chaos” for having supported protests and criticized public executions.
Other well-known people in Iran, including former soccer player Ali Karimi and actor Ashkan Khatibi, said they were questioned by Iranian secret services and received death threats both over the phone and on social media for supporting the protesters. The NGO Kurdistan Human Rights Network he wrote that a few days ago the Kurdish rapper Saman Yasin had attempted suicide due to the harsh conditions in the prison in the north of the country in which he had been incarcerated. Yasin is one of the people who were sentenced to death for participating in the protests: however, the Iranian Supreme Court on Saturday said it had welcomed his appeal against the sentence.