On September 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody. Mahsa Amini had to be arrested by the policy police because she did not wear hijab according to Iran’s rules. After the news of his death spread, protests started in different parts of the country. Gradually it spread to more than 31 provinces. The official death toll has risen to nearly 60 from 41 on Saturday. About 1,200 people were arrested, including human rights activists, lawyers and journalists.
At least 76 people were killed in the protests, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR). The biggest protests since 2019 have spread in Iran based on this incident. Amini’s death in police custody has also drawn international condemnation. Iran says the US is supporting the rebels and trying to destabilize Iran.
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi on Saturday blamed conspirators for fomenting unrest in the country. But this time people are taking to the streets without any fear of the brutal rulers and there is no sign of stopping the protests till now.
In this situation, Iranian President Raisi has given a message to be more strict in suppressing the protests. He termed the protesters as rioters and said that final action will be taken against those who act against the security and stability of the country.
The country’s police command said in a statement, “Today, the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and some rioters are using any pretext to disrupt the order, security and peace of the nation.”
Fars news agency quoted police as saying, “If counter-revolutionaries and hostile groups try to disrupt public order and security anywhere in the country, police officers will deal with their conspiracies with all their might.”
Analysts have expressed concern about whether the movement will turn into an anti-Khomeini movement as Iranians have taken to the streets in protests against the Niti Police movement.
In the second week of December 1978, an estimated 10 to 2 million people marched peacefully in Tehran calling for the abdication of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Khomeini was then living in exile in a French village thousands of miles away. At that time he provided guidance and support to the movement in Iran under his name. The people responded to his call and brought down the Iranian dynasty.
The recent death of Mahsa Amini and the burning of a woman’s hijab in protest, as well as anti-police slogans, are the situation in Iran. Even after so many killings and arrests, the people of Iran are not subdued. Could this spark eventually lead to sweeping changes in Iran, as many hope? Some believe a fuse has been lit. Women’s oppression is an existential problem for regimes, but perhaps also a fundamental weakness.
Is history repeating itself? Of course, some protesters called for parallels with the 1979 incident and chanted, ‘Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Supreme Leader!’
But we may be letting our hopes get ahead of reality. What we are seeing is far from being a complete picture of events. Many things may not be coming out in the media. Thanks to the media, we only see what is happening on the streets of some Iranian province. But it does not always represent the events of a large and populous country. It is hard to gauge how widespread the unrest is now in Iran.
Forty-three years ago, the Shah was ousted not just by Khomeini and his circle of radical clerics, but by a broad coalition of opposition parties, which brought together diverse constituencies; A combined coalition of secular urban liberals, old-school communists, new left fedayeen, Islamo-Marxist guerrillas and nationalists who revere the memory of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who was ousted in a 1953 coup supported by the US and Britain.
Among the witnesses of the Iranian Revolution in 1978 and 1979 was the famous Polish journalist Ryszard Kapusinki. In his words, the great procession in Tehran was, ‘a human river, wide and boiling, flowing endlessly through the main streets from dawn to dusk. They were like a mighty violent flood that would engulf and drown everything in a moment.’
It took the crowd eight hours to get to the city center. There are no Kapusinki in Teheran now, and we can be fairly certain that there are no eight-hour processions. The harsh truth is that although these are important protests, they are likely to be crushed by a strong regime.
The problem of interpreting far-flung phenomena is clearly not the result of smartphones and the Internet. The 1979 Iranian Revolution was covered by hundreds of journalists around the world. Khomeini gave 150 interviews during the months he was in Paris before returning to Tehran. Within two years of taking power, Khomeini brutally eliminated almost all opposition, filled prisons and introduced laws requiring women to wear the hijab.