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An inflection point for Iran?
A young woman's death after arrest by the morality police has sparked huge protests
There have been amazing scenes in Iran. Women have been burning their headscarves and cutting off their hair in protest at the death of 22 year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police.
Amini died after three days in a coma. Witnesses have claimed she was beaten on the head with a baton while being dragged into a police van to be taken to a detention centre for wearing an “improper hijab”.
Since Iran’s Islamic revolutionary regime came to power in 1979, women have not only been required to wear headscarves but have also been banned from wearing tight trousers, ripped jeans, brightly coloured outfits or clothing that reveals the knee.
Tehran’s police chief, General Hossein Rahimi, said Amini had violated the dress code. The police have rebutted the accusations of brutality and claimed she died of a heart attack. But Col. Ahmed Mirzaei, the head of the moral security police of Greater Tehran, has reportedly been suspended.
The move failed to prevent massive unrest which has now been going on for four days. The Telegraph reports:
Videos posted on social media showed protesters setting fire to hijabs while chanting promises to “take revenge” for “our sister” Amini, who died in hospital on Friday after three days in a coma following her arrest during a visit to the capital…
Videos of women cutting their hair to express their anger at women’s treatment at the hands of the police have also been shared widely on social media, while Googoosh — arguably the country’s most famous female singer — gave an emotional tribute to Amini at a concert in Frankfurt…
Police in the capital used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds of protesters chanting slogans denouncing the morality police — the enforcers of the Islamic republic’s draconian laws requiring women to wear headscarves in public.
Several hundred people gathered on Tehran’s hijab street — or headscarf street —chanting “Death to the Islamic republic!” as they removed their headscarves.
As ever, the courage of those protesting against Iran’s fanatical Islamic regime is astonishing. According to local rights groups, at least five people were killed and hundreds more injured on Monday when security forces opened fire on protesting crowds in Iran’s Kurdish region, with two of the deaths reportedly occurring in Amini’s home city of Saqez. Social media videos appeared to show protesters running from gunfire in the town of Divandarreh, in Kurdistan province. Protests have also broken out in several universities in Tehran and in Iran’s second city Mashhad.
Witnesses said demonstrators poured into Tehran’s Keshavarz Boulevard, a central thoroughfare, chanting, “Death to the dictator”. They also chanted against the police and damaged a police vehicle.
As has been demonstrated by the suspension of the head of the morality police and the announcement of an inquiry into Amini’s death, the Iranian tyrants have been showing nervousness at this fresh eruption of street protest. As well they might: few know better than a revolutionary regime how fragile is the control it wields through brutality. If enough people have the courage to face that down, the regime falls.
Until now, the protests that have periodically erupted and have been viciously suppressed — including the “Green Revolution” that followed the disputed 2009 presidential elections — haven’t achieved the critical mass necessary to bring the regime down. But under the hardline president Ebrahim Raisi — who has presided over the execution of more than 300 people this year for political crimes — and the increasing privations of economic collapse, with an approximately 300 per cent increase in the cost of basic goods, public fury and desperation have been increasing.
For months now, there have been repeated massive demonstrations in which the protesters have somehow managed to communicate with each other even though the regime shuts down the internet.
Moreover, the Iranian people — who according to expert commentators are adept at reading the runes, as well as incubating theories about both real and imaginary conspiracies — may be sensing that the regime is weakening.
They can see it is suffering one calamity after another — senior Revolutionary Guards and officials involved in Iran’s nuclear programme being mysteriously killed, equally mysterious explosions at sensitive military plants — which defy the laughable explanations of accident or malfunction that the regime is offering up. Believing that Israel is one of the most powerful countries in the world, people are speculating that Israel is behind these developments and that it is preparing to attack the regime directly.
They can see that senior figures in the security establishment are now publicly blaming each other for these calamities. Since Iranians don’t squabble in public, this is being viewed as a further sign of the regime’s weakness and internal dissension.
Excited questions were also asked about an apparently extraordinary event on Iranian TV. In early June, the night before the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini who had led the 1979 Islamic revolution, all nine Persian-language foreign TV channels broadcasting into Iran aired simultaneously an hour-long live interview with Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last Shah, who is the only opposition figure known to all Iranians. Since these TV channels reportedly all loathe each other, people speculated that this live simulcast suggested a decision had been taken somewhere to “greenlight” Reza Pahlavi as the symbolic or actual leader of the overthrow of the regime.
Whether any of this speculation is plausible or true is beside the point. For a popular insurrection against a tyranny to succeed, the people involved have to be sure that they have powerful backing. Absent that, they cannot sustain a revolt in which they will unavoidably suffer many casualties.
Maybe this latest revolt will peter out like all the rest. But if the oppressed and suffering Iranian people have decided that the regime is on its last legs and that powerful forces elsewhere in the world now have their back, this might just be the inflection point for which so many of us have hoped for so long.
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