By Mark Haddad
Iran is facing widespread protests across the country in response to the death of 22 years old Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested by the Iranian Guidance Patrol; Iran’s morality police for not wearing her hijab by the law, and was reported dead by the authorities “from a heart attack she suffered at the police station”. Several women who were in custody alongside Amini reported that she was brutally beaten to the point of death.
This sparked a series of protests that expanded from Tehran to other cities in support of Mahsa. Women across Iran have taken off their hijab and called for women’s equality, justice, and changes in the restrictive laws on women. For Iran women, Mahsa is every woman in Iran. It can be your mother, sister, daughter, or friend.
Women’s protests in Iran are not new. Unfortunately, neither is the horrific cases that mobilize women to the streets. As recently as June of this year, Iran’s women carried out an anti-hijab protest that also spread on social media. Nevertheless, the protest did not yield any concrete changes.
This time, however, the protest seems different from than ones we are familiar with. Most protests in the past were limited, focused primarily on women’s rights, and attended mostly by women. This time, however, the protest expanded to address corruption that led to the ongoing economic crisis. Protestors have taken control of authority buildings and even killed several senior Iranian police officers.
In response, the government has taken harsh measures to suppress the protests. One action that stands out is the government’s limitation on the internet. This is in an attempt to limit the exposure of the severity of the situation in Iran and prevent the mobilization of the masses through social media. This however was proven in the past as a severe mistake.
In 2011, in an attempt to prevent the Egyptian people from spreading news of the protests, Mubarak limited the use of the Internet and phones. Instead of preventing the masses from being mobilized, locals were frustrated by the lack of news, which led more people to go to the streets to check the situation on their own, which resulted in masses being on the streets of Cairo, and across the country.
As it stands, the protestors are showing no signs of relenting. The protests continue to spread and the tensions are high. It remains to be seen what will the regime do in turn, and whether it will take harsh measures to silence the protests, or will it address the grievances of the people and address their issues to silence the protests with agreements rather than by force. Meanwhile, the eyes of the world are on Iran as this wave of protests is simultaneous to the Iranian attempts to finalize a new deal with the US and the EU