2022: The World This Year

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2022: The World This Year
Iran: Anti-government protests

  Kaviyadharshini A

TWTW#196, 31 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 45




What happened? 

On 13 September,  the Guidance Patrol or the morality police, Gasht-e-Ershad took 22-year-old Mahsa Amini into custody for not wearing her hijab properly.  

On 16 September, the Police said Amini had died due to a heart condition. However,  her parents denied the reason for her death. Her death raised objections which spiraled into protests during her funeral.  

On 22 September, internet and social media access in Tehran and Kurdistan was blocked amidst the anti-regime protests after videos of dissent, wherein women gathered in large numbers, burned their hijabs, and cut off their hair, went viral.  

On 21 November, Iran’s national football team refused to sing their national anthem at their opening game against England in the FIFA World Cup 2022, to express solidarity with the suppressed voices.  

As of 7 December, according to the Iran Human Rights News Agency, at least 458 people, including 63 children and 29 women, have been killed in the protests. The UN, Amnesty International, and the international community have been calling for a fair probe into Amini’s death. 

On 26 December, Iranians marked the 100th day of continuous protests. 

What is the background? 

First, the enforcement of the Hijab in Iran. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, wearing a hijab has been mandatory. A woman without a hijab in public places was liable to imprisonment of up to 60 days and fined, or awarded up to 74 lashes. However, under Hassan Rouhani’s government, the hardline measures were relaxed. It was mainly due to movements like #TheGirlsofRevolutionStreet which challenged the dress code. The movement was led by Vida Movahed and Narges Hosseini in 2017. In 2021, Ebrahim Raisi was elected as the new President but his government’s attempts to revert to hardline ideologies and uphold the religious fervour have aggrieved the people.   

Second, ongoing oppression throughout the years. In Iran, women, and minorities, especially Zoroastrians, Jews, Kurds, and certain Christian communities are treated as second-class citizens. Even though women candidates were allowed to run for the Presidential elections, their applications were rejected. The minorities are also restricted to promote their culture and tradition as the regime has banned them from wearing their traditional attire in public places. In a nutshell, minorities are experiencing a destruction of identity and amidst this Amini’s case became a catalyst to organize people to stand for change for the future of Iranian society. 

Third, Amini’s death triggered anti-government sentiments. Amini’s case served as a starting point for the anti-government protests which reflected multiple grievances. 

Apart from the internal discrimination and inequalities, Iranians face widespread economic hardships driven by a combination of US-led trade sanctions, mismanagement by the regime, and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amini’s case has served as a trigger for people already bearing the brunt of the economic blows to gather and protest against the government.  

Fourth, the pro-government protests. In support of the regime and the actions of the Guidance Patrol, pro-government rallies started nearly a week after the anti-government protests and are determined to change the narrative in favour of the regime. According to the pro-government protesters, the anti-government protests are being fueled by the US and Israel to make Iran subservient to the West, similar to the pre-1979 period. These pro-government supporters have full support which includes media coverage and protection from police and security forces. The skirmish between the anti-government and the pro-government supporters happened during Iran's second match at Qatar World Cup 2022. The security seized flags, t-shirts and other items tend to create violence. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had assured to "deal decisively and no mercy" to people who oppose the government. 

About the author

Ms. Kaviyadharshini A  is a postgraduate scholar at the Department of History, Loyola College, Chennai.  

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