A woman’s death fuels a nation’s rage

The death of a 22-year-old woman detained by Iranian vice police last week for not wearing the proper Islamic hijab has sparked protests across the country.

The outbreak of domestic political unrest and anger against the regime over the death of Mahsa Amini coincides with the arrival of President Ebrahim Raisi in New York for the start of the UN General Assembly summit.

A fifth day of protests over Amini’s death erupted on Tuesday, with few signs that anger was waning. Demonstrations were reported in several cities, including Qazvin, Arak and Mashhad. Demonstrations also took place in the capital, Tehran. A reformist news site published an interview with the victim’s father which provided new details about his detention by morality officials and raised troubling questions about his death.

“When we went to the hospital, they wouldn’t let us see Mahsa,” Amjad Amini told the reformist site. Rouydad 24. “They had covered his whole body so we couldn’t see the bruises. I could only see my daughter’s face and the soles of her feet. But of course I could see bruises on Mahsa’s feet.

Protests over Amini’s death also raged in the western Kurdish provinces where Amini, an ethnic Kurd, was from. Protesters chanted against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and tore down Islamic Republic flags and insignia.

There have been reports of dramatic violence and mayhem, often documented in short, shaky video clips uploaded to the internet despite apparent bandwidth restrictions in some areas.

In one video, Iranian women can be seen and heard cheering and singing peacefully until a motorbike, presumably driven by a regime official, causes panic and screams as the women run. In another segment, a commander on a megaphone warns protesters to disperse as dozens of black-clad riot police gather around a police van and prepare to evacuate people.

Video from western Iran on Tuesday showed what appeared to be a lifeless young child being hastily carried away by protesters after being shot dead by security forces.

Iranian security forces attempted to quell the protests with tear gas, water cannons and riot police, as well as sending pro-regime paramilitary agents into crowds of protesters, who sometimes returned fire. with stones and by burning police vehicles. Videos showed protesters pelting fleeing police officers and plainclothes Basij, a volunteer paramilitary militia, with stones.

“I will kill, I will kill, whoever killed my sister,” they chanted. “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

At least two people were killed, according to unofficial information. Authorities have downplayed the protests and say they are exaggerated and exacerbated by foreign media, including the Persian-language service of the BBC.

Analysts said it was too early to assess whether the protests would threaten the stability of the regime. Authorities have used violence and arrests to crush protest movements in 1999, 2009 and 2019, as well as sporadic outbreaks of labor, student, ethnic and regional unrest in recent years.

While protests in recent years have focused on specific economic grievances, the focus on the hijab issue and the role of security forces in the systematic harassment of Iranian women makes the protests qualitatively different, with women playing a role leading.

“There was a wildfire that was sparked by the hijab issue, with most of the protests being led by students and women,” said Ali Fathollah-Nejad, an expert on Iran’s domestic politics at the American Council on Germany. “It was not triggered by socio-economic degradation. It was triggered by socio-cultural grievances.

The regime will respond with an iron fist and will probably succeed in crushing this

Ali Fathollah-Nejad

The protests are notable for bursts of solidarity between groups often at odds with each other, with men filling the ranks of female-led protesters and urban elites expressing support for ethnic Kurds who are often treated as an underclass in Iran.

Still, analysts have acknowledged that the protests remain too small and scattered to challenge the regime, which has deep layers of security forces it has yet to deploy.

“The regime will respond with an iron fist, and it will probably succeed in crushing this,” Mr. Fathollah-Nejad said. “As usual with these protests, there is no organization or direction, which prevents them from becoming a threat.”

This latest wave of street protests began after Amini was arrested on September 13 by the dreaded “orientation patrols” as she traveled to Tehran from her hometown, the ethnic Kurdish enclave of Saghez. According to her father, she was with her 16-year-old brother at the time, and was accosted by the morality police as she was leaving a metro station. She begged the police not to separate her from her brother, but they refused.

Mr Amini said Rouydad 24 that a physical altercation took place during his argument in the street. “One of the police pushes Mahsa and physically assaults her,” he reportedly said. Other women inside the police vehicle she was later placed in allegedly told her that Mahsa had been assaulted by security forces.

She was rushed to hospital on September 15 after collapsing at Vozara detention center, where alleged moral crimes are handled in Tehran.

News of his death sparked protests outside the hospital, which spread across the country. Analysts said the death resonated with Iranians because Amini was neither a political activist nor a journalist – just a young woman going about her life. In that sense, some have compared the death and ensuing uproar to the case of George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hands of US police in 2020 sparked nationwide unrest.

A police motorbike burns during a protest against the death of Mahsa Amin in Tehran

(via Reuters)

“It’s about being a young woman and a very ordinary person,” said Azadeh Pourzand, an Iran researcher at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London and a former resident of Tehran. “Everyone of us has been through Vozara at least once. All Iranian women from Tehran were taken to Vozara because of the veil. So that resonates with a lot of people.

Senior Iranian officials have called for an investigation into the young woman’s death, but have also claimed that she collapsed on her own, possibly due to a congenital illness, a claim her father claimed. rejected.

The family’s outspokenness is also unusual and may have helped gel a movement around Amini’s cause. Usually, regime officials threaten or offer inducements to family members of victims in order to silence them. The Amini family refused to bow to pressure to remain silent, while showing political savvy by speaking to domestic media rather than overseas satellite channels.

“They said that Mahsa suffered from heart disease and epilepsy, while I, who am her father and raised her for 22 years, say loud and clear that Mahsa had no disease and was perfectly fine. health,” Mr. Amini said. Rouydad 24. “The person who hit my daughter should be judged. I will not allow my daughter’s blood to be trampled.

Mr Raisi, who has admitted playing a role in the mass executions of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s, was already a controversial figure in the West and often shunned in international forums. The latest unrest will likely help his reputation, although he is due to meet European Union officials on the sidelines of the General Assembly later this month.

“If Raisi were to meet with Western leaders, it would make it even less of a priority and it would become even more toxic,” said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi of the Royal United Services Institute. “The protests will hamper engagement or bilateral relations between Iran and European leaders.”

Some Iranian activists have urged the West to take a tougher stance on Iran following Amini’s death. Both the White House and the United States Department of State issued sentences. Many are outraged that Mr Raisi will appear before the UN, while others are calling for an end to talks to reinstate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal that would offer Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear technology program.

“They are murderers – you can’t sit at the table to negotiate and talk with them,” Darya Safai, a member of parliament from Belgium who focuses on Iran, said in an interview. “JCPOA and talking with the ayatollahs will not be possible. We cannot give them the instrument to survive.

Iranian newspaper headlines Amini’s death at the hands of Iranian security forces


Ms Tabrizi said she doubted the murder or subsequent unrest would impact the drive to restore the JCPOA, which appears to be struggling anyway. And in any case, the Iranians may not be counting on international help in their quest.

“What is so beautiful in Iran today is how women are not waiting for a savior,” Ms. Pourzand said. “They are well aware that they are on their own and must take control and determine their own destiny.”

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