Iran’s protest movement continues despite the best efforts of Islamist leaders to crush it. Three weeks after the death of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini, who died after being arrested by the Etiquette Squad for allegedly improperly wearing a headscarf, people are still taking to the streets across Iran. With slogans such as “Women, life, freedom” they demand the abolition of the hated Islamic dress code, more freedom and the overthrow of the regime.
Since the start of the new school year, more and more students and school children have joined the protesters. That was great Video That appeared on Tuesday from a girls’ school in Karaj, not far from the capital, Tehran. Without exception, the girls took off the veil, which is the obligatory veil. They chanted “Shame on you,” and drove the headmaster, who is allegedly a regime supporter, out of the gate.
Things are more difficult in universities. At the beginning of this week at noon Social media photos from Sharif University In Tehran, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Then police officers on scooters chase groups of screaming students into the university’s parking garage. Shots can be heard in other photos of the university building.
Rubber bullets and batons
“They shoot rubber bullets and hit students with their batons,” says a young woman who just graduated from Sharif University. She is now pursuing a master’s degree at a European university, but maintains close contact with fellow former students in Tehran. I’m sitting here right now while my friends are being arrested. That’s too heavy.”
However, the woman finds ways to help her old colleagues. Once she received their messages about the police raid, she shared their cry for help on Twitter. “After me and the other alumni started tweeting about it, people from all over Tehran came to Sharif University to help the students. The solidarity is very great.”
Students also refuse to attend lectures at other Iranian universities and protests erupt. The regime does everything in its power to track and prosecute them. “They even put facial recognition cameras in front of the campus entrance,” said the woman, who studied at Sharif University. At least eight students have already been arrested and many of my friends have already been summoned by the Mukhabarat. This means that they will be arrested.”
Outside the universities and wealthy parts of Iran, the regime is shooting faster. It is impossible to say for sure how many protesters have been killed by the regime. The Iranian human rights organization, Iran, has reported 154 deaths. Most of them belong to non-Persian minorities. In the southeastern city of Zahedan, where many Baloch live, 63 people were killed last Friday during protests against the rape of a 15-year-old girl by a local police chief, according to the International Health Regulations.
Dark cat and mouse game
However, protests continue, says 36-year-old Parisa, a housewife from the southern city of Shiraz, who does not want her name listed in the newspaper for fear of reprisals. “At first, we needed downtown, but now that’s always closed,” she says by phone. Since then, a grim cat-and-mouse game with the police takes place every night. “Now we go out into the street and search so we can join a group of protesters, always in different places.”
Parisa saw people being shot in front of her eyes, she says. In the first week of the protests, I also witnessed a woman who was hit in the head by a stone wall and did not survive. The authorities secretly buried her overnight. “When I get home, scenes like this go through my head again and I often cry.”
Anyone who is infected tries to avoid hospital as much as possible. “The police often wait there to take injured protesters to prison,” Parisa says. As a precaution, many protesters wear masks in the street to avoid being identified. “We don’t always get to know each other.”
Meanwhile, many take inspiration from a song by one of the country’s most beloved singers, Shirvin Hajipur. This song, titled Baraye (Because), consists entirely of nuggets about the protest movement that Hajpour picked up from social media. It was put online last week and millions of Iranians listened to it. A few days later, Hajpour was arrested and thrown into prison. He was released on bail on Tuesday. The song can now be heard everywhere. “The high school in Tehran where my nephew attends was closed because the students were singing it in class,” says an Iranian who lives in the Netherlands but wishes to remain anonymous.
It is difficult to predict how the protests will develop. The regime will not be inclined to compromise, and has previously shown a willingness to escalate repression until protests are quelled. This was also the case during the 2019 mass demonstrations, in which at least several hundred people were killed.
“But more violence leads to more protests,” says the woman, who graduated from Sharif University. So she expects the demonstrations to continue, although she doesn’t see where that will lead either. People talk about a revolution, but at this point it is very difficult to make predictions. We can hardly make a plan if we have to fear for our safety all the time.”
Parisa in Shiraz says the fear is over. She’s been shopping the past few weeks without a headscarf. “We have to fight,” he sounds over the phone. “Otherwise, we will end up in some kind of prison. Our lives really need to change, even if we have to die for it.”
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A version of this article also appeared in the October 6, 2022 newspaper