Protests continue in Iran

“Woman, life, freedom” and “death to the dictator” are the words ringing throughout Iran as mass protests continue. The demonstrations, which have taken place in over 40 Iranian cities, come following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Jîna “Mahsa” Amini, in police custody on the 16th September.

Amini had been detained by Iranian ‘morality police’ for allegedly breaking the states’ dress codes, before later being pronounced dead in a Tehran hospital. Family members claimed she had suffered a severe brain injury after being beaten by police; a claim which authorities deny.

The incident caused outrage across the country. Thousands of civilians and activists, many of whom are young women and schoolgirls, have taken to the streets over the past month to demand justice and social change. They have been met with a violent crackdown by Iran’s state forces. Human Rights groups estimate that, as of 8th October, at least 185 people, including 19 children, have been killed. This includes 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, who was found dead after being detained, tortured, and fatally beaten by revolutionary guards for over 5 days. Her relatives claim they were forced into making false statements about her death by Iranian officials.

Despite this repression and attempted spreading of misinformation by the state, protests do not appear to be calming down. Instead, the deaths of protesters continue to spark waves of demonstrations, and larger movements uniting different social factions have also been ignited. One protester describes how: “people are fed up with discrimination, injustice and poverty, and they use any means to raise their voices. Mahsa Amini’s death is actually an excuse for this women’s revolution.” Protests have now also been accompanied with strikes in Iran’s energy sector, with workers striking at the Abadan oil refinery and Bushehr petrochemical plant.

The current wave of protests is unlikely to successfully topple the Iranian Government, despite many calling for it. State forces are meeting every push of protesters with brutality and repression, and the regime is not unaccustomed to quelling widespread protest. The country saw a number of demonstrations in 2009, 2019, and 2021 sparked by an alleged fraudulent election, steep increases in fuel prices, and water shortages respectively. However, an end to this current period of civil unrest is not yet in sight. Alongside the demands for women’s rights, civilians are expressing other long-held frustrations with the Government – could it be that the situation in Iran is starting to reach its boiling point? The ongoing strikes in the energy industry may be particularly concerning for the regime, who so far appear untouched by the demonstrations, as the country’s economy depends highly upon its oil revenue. It was, after all, a combination of mass protests and nationwide strikes that led to the successful Iranian Revolution against the Shah over 40 years ago. Only time will tell if the current unrest will be severe and sustained enough to lead to radical social and political change for the people of Iran.

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