Demonstration against the Irani government: A counterexample to the anti-government protests and the 1973 death of a 22-year-old woman
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday appealed for national unity and tried to allay anger against the country’s rulers, even as the anti-government protests that have engulfed the country for weeks continued to spread to universities and high schools.
Raisi acknowledged that the Islamic Republic had “weaknesses and shortcomings,” but repeated the official line that the unrest sparked last month by the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the country’s morality police was nothing short of a plot by Iran’s enemies.
“Today the country’s determination is aimed at cooperation to reduce people’s problems,” he told a parliament session. ” National integrity and unity are necessities that render our enemy useless.”
The regime said that the protests were encouraged by outside forces. Many in the crowd were afraid that the US would intervene in Iranian affairs again, like it did in the 1953 coup.
TEHRAN — On Friday, the eve of the 44th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, celebratory fireworks lit up Tehran’s night sky. Within minutes, the show was interrupted with cries of “freedom” “death to the dictator” and “death to Khamenei,” Iran’s supreme leader, ringing from apartment windows. Then, chants of “God is great” as supporters of the regime chimed in.
The government retaliated with a series of harsh actions. Iran Human Rights reported in late December that the death toll had reached at least 476, despite the fact that Iranian authorities say 200 people have been killed.
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University campuses have been considered sanctuaries in times of turmoil as the demonstrations spread rapidly as the new academic year began. Videos on social media showed students expressing solidarity with peers who had been arrested and calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. Many schools moved classes online this week because of the unrest.
Security forces surrounded and fired tear gas at protesters who were holed up in a parking lot as the university became a battlefield on Sunday. The student union reported that police arrested hundreds of students, although many were later released.
Social media video shows cars filling the streets after news of the raid on students spread, with horns in solidarity with the protesters as the showdown unfolded at the university.
There were group of girls waving their state mandated hijabs and chanting “Woman!” on Monday at the high schools that were gender-segregated. Life! That’s freedom! in the city of Karaj west of the capital and in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, according to widely shared footage.
The Biden administration has said it condemns the brutality and repression against the citizens of Iran and that it will look for ways to impose more sanctions against the Iranian government if the violence continues.
A woman dressed in black raises a framed portrait of her son, Siavash Mahmoudi, in the air as she paces the sidewalk in Iran’s capital, Tehran. “I am not scared of anyone. They told me to be silent. The woman in the video yells that she won’t be, her voice heavy with emotion.
Mahmoudi’s mother is among many Iranians who claim the regime tried to silence them as they mourned loved ones slain in ongoing nationwide demonstrations.
As the masses made their way to Azadi Square, nationalist and religious songs were played, the crowds chanted reverent slogans for Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Revolution. Some of their favorite mottos were “death to America” and “death to Israel” as they displayed banners with the same words.
The Islamic Republic has its own power bases that have been penetrated by anti-regime demonstrations. Ethnic minorities — notably Kurds in the country’s north and northwest, and Baloch people in the southeast — have also staged protests, enduring what appear to be some of the most brutal crackdowns, with scores reportedly killed.
Girls and women are taking off their headscarves in schools because they are flashpoints.
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Terrorists think that our generation is the previous one. We are not. A protester at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology told CNN that he had assured them that there would be no reprisals by the Iranian police.
If the dust settles and we stop protesting, they are going to kill more of us. They are going to turn us to North Korea, because they are going to detain even more people. This isn’t the end. I promise you that.”
Last week, Amnesty International said it had obtained a leaked document which appeared to instruct commanders of armed forces in all provinces to “mercilessly confront” protesters, deploying riot police as well as some members of the military’s elite Revolutionary guards, the Basij paramilitary force and plainclothes security agents.
CNN has not seen the leaked documents obtained by Amnesty International and cannot verify the reporting. CNN has reached out to Amnesty International on how it received the leaked documents but hasn’t received a reply.
CNN has not been able to verify the claim of sexual assault against female protesters from theAmnesty International. A video has been posted on social media showing Iranian security forces dragging women through the streets.
The Islamic Republic has faced many challenges over the years, including the threat posed by these protests.
“These are primarily very, very young people, a younger generation who have apparently completely lost faith that this Islamic Republic can be reformed,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice-president at the Washington, DC-based Quincy Institute.
“If the protests don’t get critical mass, the regime is not likely to break and lose its willingness to suppress,” he says. “But as long as it doesn’t show any signs of losing its willingness to repress, it’s unlikely that more protesters would come to the streets.”
Vaez said that it was hard to maintain a movement that over the long run might bring the regime to its knees.
Still, the protesters appear bolder than ever, sensing a window of opportunity that could quickly close as Iran appears to near development of a nuclear weapon, which would both entrench the regime’s grip on power and deepen its isolation.
He stated that a regime with a nuclear weapon would kill and hurt its own people.
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It was the last time their relatives would see them alive. One family frantically searched for their daughter for 10 days, while the other found out she had gone missing just hours after they posted desperate appeals on social media.
But the grim result was the same. Human rights groups said the security forces had killed the missing teenagers. One girl’s skull was smashed, and the other girl’s head was cracked by baton blows. Their bodies were severely bruised and badly damaged. They were only 16 at the time.
An estimated tens of thousands of people turned out in Berlin to show their support for the women and activists in Iran. A march went through central Berlin after the protests at the Victory Column in Berlin’s Tiergarten park began.
Many people of all ages were wearing red, white and green while shouting in unison on the U.S. National Mall. “Be scared. Don’t be afraid. We are one in this,” demonstrators yelled, before marching to the White House. “Say her name! Mahsa!”
Iranians from across the Washington D.C. area joined the demonstration put together by grassroots organizers from around the United States.
Shooka’s mother fled the Iranian revolution when she was a child and now she is an attorney in the US. In Iran “women are like a second-class citizen and they are sick of it,” Scharm said.
Between chants, protesters in D.C. broke into song, singing traditional Persian music about life and freedom — all written after the revolution in 1979 brought religious fundamentalists to power in Iran. They sang one in particular in unison — “Baraye,” meaning because of, which has become the unofficial anthem of the Iran protests. Within a few weeks of posting that song to his account, the artist of that song was arrested. It accrued more than 40 million views.
Although authorities released well-known Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti from prison this week after she posted bail, she still faces charges stemming from comments she made in support of a protester who had been executed.
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Recently, some observers have suggested that the size and frequency of the demonstrations are both on the wane. Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and CEO of the London-based Bourse & Bazaar Foundation think tank, posted a chart to Twitter that appears to show such declines. The current protest movement driven by such righteous anger has not produced large and durable protests compared with the Green Movement that erupted in 2009.
Javad, an elderly protester from north-central Iran, tells NPR he is certain that the protests will continue and get bigger. He asked that his family name not be used to protect himself and his relatives from being retaliated against.
“Without this cooperation and coming up with a plan to put pressure on the Islamic Republic and facilitate the transition from this government to a new government, it’ll be harder for new groups of people to join the movement,” he says. It is difficult to trust the opposition without cooperation.
Analyst Ali Vaez at the International Crisis Group says on one level, it’s remarkable that the regime has essentially driven young Iranians onto the streets, primarily through its own incompetence and corruption. He sees a historic parallel.
The Soviet Union was in the early, not late, 1980s according to him. The 1980’s was when the system was ideologically bankrupt, economically broken at a political dead end, and simply not able to address its problems with the same group of characters who created it.
Nearly four months into these demonstrations, the protesters are still a minority voice, and Vaez believes that leaves the situation, for now, in a stalemate.
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One carpet dealer asked if he would sleep on Revolution Day. Like many people in this story, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified, because of the risks of publicly criticizing the regime. Those discussing the government also often didn’t want to be photographed.
Secularists, anti-fascists, and Marxists came together in 1979 to oppose the rule of Shah Pahlavi. The Shah came to power after the United States and Britain overthrew the elected leadership of the country. The supporters of the 1979 revolution wanted to bring a democratic system back to Iran. The Shah was known as a ruthless autocratic leader and used torture and executions to stifle dissent. Today, critics accuse the Islamic Republic that took power after the revolution of similar tactics.
Many Iranians who are not sure about the regime still believe in the revolution. The celebrations were hosted in Tehran by a 63-year old university professor. He said he did not come for Mr. Khamenei. “I came for the revolution.”
“The celebration is losing its color,” said a 53-year-old woman walking with her father in the city of Isfahan, the day before the anniversary. She learned that her father opposed the Shah, but when she began repeating that propaganda, she was gently explained Iran’s many problems.
“People who don’t want to wear the hijab, or want to wear it in their own way should be allowed to do as they wish,” she said. That doesn’t mean that we don’t support the Islamic Republic or that we want it to change.
A 21-year old college student spoke withNPR on the day before Revolution Day about how the campus protests she took part in after the death of Amini were peaceful. Just walking and telling our rights.
Like many Iranians, she had complicated views about the regime. She didn’t plan to celebrate the anniversary of the Revolution, and doesn’t support Iran’s leaders. She said she respects them.
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A few people who spotted NPR journalists doing interviews took pains to explain that the slogans were against America’s politics, not its people. “We love you,” one man said.
A woman who is in her 50s begged in English to be honest. Be transparent. She mentioned that she wanted NPR to know the reality. The reality. This is the reality,” she answered, pointing toward the square.
And there are mixed feelings from women in Iran. “I’m very proud to be a woman in Iran and living in Tehran in an Islamic country, and I’m very happy,” Fatemah said. “Yes, there are problems here, and there are many problems in other countries but we should build our own country, others should not decide for us.”
Iran’s hardline president Ebrahim Raisi gave a speech at the square, which piped over loud speakers. A group encourages people to keep protesting and they briefly hacked it.
“People who have been deceived know that the enemy’s issue is not a woman, a life or freedom, but rather a person,” he said, referring to the protester’s slogan.
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The government needs to do more in order to fix the country’s sputtering economy, no matter what the political leanings of Iranians are. The Iranian rial has taken a huge hit against the dollar after the protests. Iranians say they can’t afford basic needs, combined with U.S. sanctions.
Seyed, a 33-year-old man who was born in Iran, but spent most of his life abroad in English-speaking countries, said the economy is the reason why he decided to join the rally.
“I’m definitely here to support Iran and I’m definitely here to tell the government that we need to do some serious changes, especially when it comes to the economy,” he said. The government needs to have policies that will allow the average Iranian to have an ordinary life.
“We want similar things from the government [as the protesters did], especially when it comes to the economy, but we don’t believe in setting fire to the country,” she said.
The nationwide events on Saturday served to project that the government is in control, after several tumultuous months, in which critics and analysts alike questioned whether another revolution could be near.
Asked if she though the regime would still be around in another 44 years, the 53-year-old woman in Isfahan, who was a child under the Shah’s regime, said “Never, never.”
She said that there is a sense of freedom in the youth because of how awake they are. I don’t think that it will last for more than two years.
Libya and Iraq are two countries in the region that struggled after authoritarian leaders were ousted.