Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

Jaime Leon I

Tehran (EFE).- Mahsa Amini’s death has managed to rouse thousands of Iranians through pain and compassion, with protests across Iran, unlike other occasions where protests have been reduced to fragmented social groups fueled by the economy.

The protests began on Friday, September 16, after reports of the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested three days earlier by the so-called Morale police for wearing a veil. Anger spread with increasingly larger protests, in more parts of the country and more violent. So far, at least 17 people have died in the protests, Iranian state television reported on Thursday the 22nd, and the number of injured has exceeded half a thousand.

In Persia, protests are nothing new: rising fuel prices led many Iranians to take to the streets in 2019, and drought sparked protests in 2020 and 2021.

This 2022, retirees have protested for their pensions, while rising bread prices have many Iranians again defying the authorities with street protests.

But all these protests were limited to the groups or social classes that started them, although they were suppressed by the security forces and many of them died, as in 2019, when approximately 300 protesters died.

However, protests over Amini’s death have gone further and fractured Iranian society.

Youth and women are leading the protests

“These protests are motivated by pain, not mere grievance. Pain has opened the way to a new and greater mobilization”, explained analyst Esfandia Batmangelidz in an article.

Thus, people from different backgrounds and social classes joined the protests, expressing a “solidarity” that previous protests had not achieved, according to the columnist.

Young people, and especially women, lead the protests that shake more than 20 cities these days, but there are also many older people.

Academic Ali Alphoneh defended on Twitter that the question of why the action was taken against Mahsa Amini on this occasion and yet “morality laws are not enforced in luxury shopping centers in northern Tehran” is also the most troubling question.

21 September Clashes between protesters and police in Tehran. EFE/EPA

“This is why Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody has sparked outrage that has united the middle class and the underprivileged,” he said.

The veil, a non-negotiable symbol in Iran

Despite the rejection of the garment by sections of the population, as seen in recent days of protests, the burkha is a non-negotiable symbol of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Many young women have removed the curtain at the protest in a clear symbol of rebellion, considering its compulsory nature to be a violation of their fundamental rights.

The gesture was accompanied by chants such as “justice, freedom and no to compulsory hijab” or “women, life, freedom” and “death to the dictator, death to the dictator”, among others.

Even pious women, who wear the chador (a black garment that covers the entire body except the face) and do not protest, are against its compulsion.

A veiled woman walks down the street in the Iranian capital. EFE/EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

“People have to decide how to dress,” a conservative resident of Tehran, who usually wears a chador, told EFE. Another woman in the capital explained that she covers herself with a veil even at home, but her daughter wears as little as possible.

“The new generation is different. They should remove it,” he asserted.

According to Khomeini, without a veil is “naked”.

An integral element of the faith, the veil is perhaps the greatest reminder that the theocracy established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 still survives.

The religious leader declared that women were “naked” without this garment and assured that the revolution had already been “successful” by simply covering women’s hair.

More than four decades after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the dress is ubiquitous on the country’s streets, where it is rare for a woman to cover her head, even if it is only the top of her head.

In fact, its use is required by law and women who do not cover their faces in public face prison terms and fines.

Despite its ubiquity and symbolic power, veiling was not without controversy. Indeed, when Khomeini announced the compulsory nature of clothing in 1979, women protested in the streets for six days.

The Ayatollah backed down, but a year later he made the headscarf compulsory for government posts, and in 1983 the hijab became compulsory for all women.

With the rise of ultra-conservative Ibrahim Raisi to the presidency in August last year, pressure on women to comply with strict dress codes has increased with more arrests by the dreaded Morale police.

Web Editing: Oscar Tomasi

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