Iranian protests: More than 100 days have passed since the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police sparked protests across the country. It’s been more than 100 days since Iran saw a riot of women burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in the streets. It has been more than 100 days since the Iranian people chanted “Woman, Life, Freedom” in unison. There have been more than 100 days of unrest and 100 days of refusal by the Iranian authorities.
Despite the shutdown of social media, videos of widespread unrest continued to appear online. The mostly female-led protests are demanding an end to Iran’s theocratic rule. These demonstrations have slowly taken the shape of a strong and supportive movement in Iran over the decades. Here is a systematic breakdown of events that focus on the current scenario in Iran. Let’s dive in.
Protests in Iran: The Beginning
Mahsa Amini was arrested on September 13 by Iran’s Guidance Patrol, also known as the morality police. The reason for the arrest was Mahsa’s “bad hijab”, meaning she wore the hijab inappropriately. Mahsa was later admitted to the ICU for injuries sustained after being harassed by the morality police. A photo of Mahsa lying unconscious in a hospital bed soon went viral and immediately sparked outrage and agitation in her hometown. Later, his medical records were leaked which showed that he had a fractured skull. This caused further unrest throughout Iran.
Demonstrations turn into widespread protests
A day after Amini’s death on 16 September 2022, the funeral was held in his hometown of Saqqez on 17 September. The mourners gathered for fame slowly began to remove their handkerchiefs. The funeral then turned into a protest site, as loud and clear cries of “death to the dictator” were heard. The demonstrations then spread to the University of Tehran, where people were heard chanting slogans of “woman, life, freedom”. The protests escalated as security forces and protesters clashed in several Iranian cities, including Rasht, Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad.
The inevitable shutdown of social networks
As protests spread across the country, mobile internet was shut down and home internet was disrupted. In view of the growing number of demonstrations, the Iranian authorities also decided to restrict access to social media. Around September 21, 2022, limited access to social networks such as WhatsApp and Instagram was provided. On the same day, official reports appeared online that confirmed several deaths in the protests. Despite the shutdown, the protests turned into uprisings by agitated Iranians from all walks of life, mounting one of the boldest challenges to political leadership since the 1979 revolution.
What did the leaders of Iran do?
There is no denying that these protests are the biggest protests Iran’s leaders have seen in 3 decades. This is probably why leaders have difficulty accepting the situation, postponing further resolution of the issue. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei accused Israel and the US of fomenting “riots” in an attempt to destabilize Iran as a country. He also expressed his condolences to Amini, but he also said that he did not approve of the large demonstrations that were being held by the people. President Ebrahim Raisi also stated that Amini’s death has “saddened” the Islamic Republic, but at the same time he warned that the “chaos” emerging amid violent protests cannot be accepted. However, the protests continued and even the security forces could not stop them. In fact, in the videos that appeared online, people were seen singing “Death to the dictator”.
A crucial role for the Iranian sports community
The Iranian sports community was not far behind in uniting their voices and protesting against Amini’s unjust death. In the latest incident at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Iran’s players did not sing their national anthem before their first match against England. This was in support of the ongoing anti-government protests in his hometown. While England won the match, the message from the Iranian team was loud and clear. The showdown was taking place at a time when security forces began shooting at people seen taking part in the protests, in the predominantly Kurdish cities of Javanrud and Piranshahr.
On November 17, Iran announced the death of Colonel Esmael Cheraghi, which occurred as a result of the violence that broke out during the protests. Three days later, authorities released a video showing three “confessions” claiming responsibility for the colonel’s death, The Indian Express reported. Although authorities did not release the names of the accused, one of the three bore a strong resemblance to Nasr-Azadani. The news website IranWire published a story on December 11 that Iran’s judicial system planned to hang Iranian soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani for the crime it calls “moharebeh,” which means “waging war against God.” Under Iranian law, “moharebeh” carries the death penalty. However, there has been an outpouring of support from the Iranian sports community that has garnered worldwide attention.
How did the world react?
What began as a reaction to Amini’s death has expanded beyond initial demands for increased rights for women, with most calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. The United States has repeatedly imposed severe repression and created pressure on Tehran. The US has imposed sanctions on top Iranian officials, including the attorney general and senior military officials, over anti-hijab protests. According to Reuters, Washington also imposed sanctions on the Iranian company, Imen Sanat Zaman Fara. The company allegedly makes equipment for Tehran’s law enforcement. The UN Human Rights Council also voted to condemn the Iranian government’s crackdown on peaceful protests. The United Nations human rights chief also called on the Iranian government to stop the crackdown on protesters. The Tehran envoy, however, was defiant and unyielding.
Amid global criticism, the Iranian government executed Mohsen Shekari, a young man convicted of assaulting a member of Iran’s security forces during nationwide protests. Shekari’s death sentence was the first by the government against a person involved in the protests. On December 12, Iranian authorities carried out a second execution in which a man convicted of killing two members of the security forces was publicly hanged. Activists have repeatedly warned that at least a dozen people have already been sentenced to death in closed-door trials. According to Iranian Human Rights Activists, at least 488 people have been killed since the protests began in September, IE reported.
Looking at the current scenario, it is hard to digest that there was a time when the hijab was actually banned in Iran. In 1936, under the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the hijab was banned in an effort to “modernize” the country, an IE report says. Police removed hijabs from the heads of women who were seen wearing them in public. Over the years, the moral standards imposed have varied depending on the nature of the Iranian regime. So far, the Iranian authorities have refused to acknowledge or accept the demands raised by people in the ongoing protests.