Protests in Iran - will they bring about change?
Thousands of Iranians are protesting in support of 22-year-old, Mahsa Amini. On September 13, she was seized by Iran's morality police in Tehran and transferred to a "re-education institution," allegedly, for not wearing her hijab properly. She died three days later in their custody. Since then, protests have taken place in at least 90 cities throughout the country, including Tehran, with demonstrators calling for an end to control, corruption, poverty, and repression.. Reportedly dozens of protestors have been killed in the resulting clashes with security forces. In several videos across social media showcasing the protests, women are seen ripping off their headscarves, burning them in street bonfires, and cutting off their hair.
The police have denied employing violence on Ms. Amini. They claimed she had a heart attack while in custody due to an existing health problem, which her family rejects. Photos of her lying on a hospital bed, and her bloodied face reveals a different narrative.
This is a significant protest, with her name everywhere. Protesters are shouting “death to the dictator,” directed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ailing supreme leader. Shadi Sadr, a prominent human rights lawyer who has campaigned for Iranian women’s rights for two decades told the NYTimes, “The anger isn’t over just Mahsa’s death, but that she should have never been arrested in the first place.”
The Iranian government has a history of tamping down protests. In 2009, millions of urban, educated Iranians flooded the streets of cities around the country, enraged by what they saw as election manipulation by their officials to ensure a hard-line president and stymie reforms. In retaliation, the elite Revolutionary Guards opened fire, killing dozens and arresting many more. In 2018, citizens in dozens of cities took to the streets to protest soaring prices and a poor economy. They were greeted with force once more. In 2019, the Iranian government abruptly hiked gasoline prices. To slow the protesters' momentum, there were internet blackouts.
Such internet outages have returned across Iran. As a result, the US administration has directed American technology corporations to assist the people of Iran in accessing information online. This will facilitate the organization and dissemination of information across the country. Such action by world leaders gives hope to Iranians and assurance that they are not alone.
Additionally, the diversity of these protestors is something that has never been seen since the creation of the Iranian Republic. It has united rich Iranians from what is similar to the upper east side of New York to those struggling to put a meal on the table.
In my opinion, these protests may not bring about significant change in how the government treats its constituents but they will send a message that the people are fed up and have reached a boiling point.