Unprecedented protest and resistance has emerged in Iran this week after Mahsa Amini’s death in the custody of Iran’s “morality” police.
The level of anger and frustration in Iran today — on display in dozens of videos across social media — appears far greater than in 2009, when Iranians took to the streets to protest a stolen election and push for reform.
For two decades now, attempts at reforming the system have been stymied; the regime has responded with violence, election fraud, and marginalizing and imprisoning those seeking peaceful reforms. The conclusion many young Iranian women and men appear to have reached is that attempts at reform from within should be abandoned. Isn’t two decades of failure enough, they ask? They boycotted the last election; their anger is immeasurable — and legitimate.
So, while it took weeks before the slogans turned against the regime as a whole in 2009, the current protests called for the overthrow of the regime almost from the outset.
This is the regime’s own doing. By blocking reforms, narrowing Iran’s political spectrum, and further limiting freedoms — all the while continuing the corruption, repression and mismanagement — the regime is literally pushing people to choose revolt over reform.
But I fear we haven’t seen anywhere near the repressive capacity of the regime yet. There are indications that the state “held back” due to Raisi’s presence in New York; he’ll return to Tehran today [Thursday], and the expectation is that things may get very bloody in the coming days. (We may not know for a while what will happen because the regime has shut down most of Iran’s internet access.)
Iranians learned 40 years ago that overthrowing a tyrannical regime through revolution is one thing, and establishing democracy is another matter altogether. The current protests may once again succeed with the former only to fail at the latter. Still, when millions of young women and men see no other way out, that is the path they will choose, come what may. [Continue reading…]
The demonstrations have evoked images of an anti-government protest in 2009, known as the green revolution, that followed contentious presidential elections and marked the last time citizens faced off against security forces on a large scale.
“The main difference between the current protest compared to the green movement in 2009 is that now people are fighting back; they are not afraid of the brutal regime,” said Sima Sabet, an Iranian journalist. “Demonstrators are now burning ambulances because the government is using ambulances to move their security forces not to rescue people. The protesters are now using different tactics; they move between all cities and make it hard for security forces to control all locations.”
Firuzeh Mahmoudi, executive director of human rights NGO United for Iran, said the recent unrest followed months of Iranians being prepared to hold smaller protests on an array of issues: “The uprising in 2009 in some ways was more expansive in certain cities,” she said. “We had millions of people protesting in certain cities during the biggest day of that protest. It was the biggest thing since the  revolution. They did not see it coming and were very surprised.
“Now we’re seeing not only big cities, but smaller cities that we’ve never seen before. We’re now also seeing unprecedented ways in which people are showing up, in the messaging and the boldness. Things are a lot more unified.”
Mahmoudi said chants heard at rallies, such as “We’ll support our sisters and women, life, liberty”, had been heard around the country.
“This is unprecedented for us. We have never seen women take their hijab off in mass like this. Burning down the police centres, running after their cars, burning down the pictures of Khamenei,” she said. [Continue reading…]