New Delhi: Iran’s street protests, arsons, deaths and arrests continue to increase over the last two weeks. Encouraged by the support of several world powers and the Iranian diaspora spread across the globe, the attitude of the protestors has further hardened, and a wave of rage and disobedience among the citizens continues to swell.
Despite major crackdowns by the Iran ruling elites, some 50 deaths of protestors and hundreds of arrests of locals, the protests still show no signs of diminishing. The internet is down, business establishments and educational institutions remain closed, and government offices hardly function.
The present unrest was triggered by the death of a 22-year-old civilian, Ms Mahsa Amini in police custody over breaking Iran’s strict hijab law. But this was just an initiation that vented the anger of the Iranians facing the authoritarian dictatorship and religious laws.
The Iranians, for decades, have been facing the wrath of state repression and economic instability. No one can challenge or criticise the government, or else the country’s morality police will be knocking at their doors. Thousands of Iranians were humiliated by the morality police.
Human rights activists and political observers blame the “morality police”, which has continued to function since 1979, as the main reason for the protests. So once morality police arrested Amini, who later died in their custody, a burst of sentiments and anger erupted.
According to the customary rules in Iran, women must dress modestly, wear no heavy makeup and don a hijab or headscarf when in the streets or markets. Women are forbidden from riding bicycles and motorcycles.
Now political pundits say that even conservative Muslims are feeling the pain of the morality police and joining the young and secular generation of protestors against the ruling regime and the morality police.
It took 44 years for the complete cycle of the Islamic revolution to turn in Iran. The protests brought back memories of Iranian Shah rule, ahead of 1978, when freedom of speech, democracy and freedom to wear clothes of your choice was never a challenge.
The Iranian (Shia) Islamic Revolution (1978-1979) of Ayatollah Khomeini was the beginning of the Caliphate supremacy in west Asia that finally spread into other Gulf countries and more so in the Sunni school of thought ruled countries.
The caliphate supremacy encouraged several radical militant outfits to grow in the name of religion and disseminate religious sermons on the society to adopt conservative and customary laws.
Forty-four years later, the latest round of mass protests in Iran erupted over the death of Mahsa Amini, (who died on September 16 at the hands of the alleged morality police) for violating Iran’s rules on mandatory Islamic veiling in public.
The tragic death of Amini and follow-up protests are the beginning of the change locals are looking for, more so the removal of strict dress code and rule of mandatory wearing of the veil or hijab in public.
Death of Amini in custody was a trigger. Hatred against the government was brewing up. The Islamic rulers, especially Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s attitude of complete dictatorship in the name of religion, were choking the voice and interfering with the privacy of the locals.
The use of violent repression measures by police to defeat the protests led to more defiance from the public, and Iranian Diaspora spread across the globe. The arm twisting of the protestors, random arrests and mounting deaths of protestors has further alienated the ruling government and increased the public dissent and anger against the Islamic Republic and the religious clergy.
International and social media, for a year, have been reporting the harsher ruling government measures and arresting people who oppose the high headiness of the administration in the name of law and order. Hundreds of civilians were arrested. The growing irritation has finally vented out on the streets.
It is also alleged that the Iran elections held in June 2021 were sham. Khamenei plotted for Ebrahim Raisi to become Iran’s President. Once in office, President Ebrahim was supposed to focus on creating jobs, building new housing, and tackling corruption. In other words, it runs the administration smoothly. However, the President, a conservative cleric, enforced Stricker hijab laws as a priority and started using electronic surveillance of the public.
The government’s orders to crack down on the “anti-hijab” movement have been repelled.
The new younger generation leads the present protests, mostly born after 1979, particularly women, now rallying around opposition to mandatory hijab rules to defy this one law and the entirety of the Islamic Republic’s social-religious doctrine and its values being imposed on society. People feel the present government is not doing any good for the people and the country, hence several grievances.
The scene of Women burning their hijab or headscarves and cutting their hair in public in protest is simply challenging the rigid and strict moral laws. The protestors on the street are raising slogans demanding “death to the dictator” and “We will die, but we’ll get Iran back.”
The government blames Kurdish opposition groups for orchestrating the protests. Surprisingly, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has maintained silence. So far, no comment from his office and perhaps he understands the pressure of the protestors.
Several elite and famous Iranian celebrities and athletes too have voiced their support for the ongoing protests. Iranian Diaspora across the globe is equally protesting and showing support to the Iranian people facing the doctoral regime in Iran.
The protests will change the shape of politics and shift the policy in Iran by bringing in some secular and easy-going leadership compared to previous Islamic rulers. Nearly all developed countries and those Iranians now living outside Iran are longing to see the happy days of secularism, where freedom of speech and what to wear is left to the individuals.