According to eyewitness accounts, videos shared on social media, and reports from organisations that advocate for human rights, antigovernment demonstrations in Iran are becoming more widespread as a result of the death of a woman who was 22 years old while in the custody of the police. Dozens of cities are currently experiencing unrest, which has been met with a crackdown by the authorities.
The demonstrations, which are taking place while President Ebrahim Raisi is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, are shaping up to be one of the most significant challenges to the authority of the Islamic Republic in recent memory. They erupted over the weekend when the lady, Mahsa Amini, passed away after being arrested by Tehran’s morality police on a charge of breaching the ban on head scarves. The arrest came after the woman was accused of breaking the regulation on head scarves.
As of Wednesday, human rights organisations reported that at least seven people had been murdered during the protests. Protesters have been heard screaming anti-Islamic Republic slogans like “Mullahs get lost,” “We don’t want an Islamic republic,” and “Death to the supreme leader.” These protesters are demanding the end of the Islamic Republic. In addition, ladies have set fire to their hijabs in an act of defiance against the rule, which mandates that all women above the age of puberty must wear a head covering as well as loose clothes.
The administration of Mr. Raisi has unleashed a vast deployment of security personnel, including officers from the riot police and members of the Basij militia who are dressed in plainclothes, in order to put down the demonstrators. In several of the communities where there were demonstrations, both internet and mobile service have been severely affected. On Wednesday, access was also banned to Instagram, which is a platform that has been used to a significant degree by the demonstrators.
The videos that have been posted online and the scale of the response from the authorities are difficult to independently verify. However, video and photographs sent by witnesses known to The New York Times were generally consistent with the images that have been posted widely online. These images show protesters, many of whom are women, facing off against the police, and fires breaking out on the streets of Tehran.
According to witnesses and several of the recordings, police officers threw demonstrators to the ground, beat them with batons, and fired bullets and tear gas in their direction while they were on the ground.
Ms. Amini has become a symbol of Iran’s restricted and harsh treatment of women as well as the country’s rigorous policing of the opposition as a result of her passing away, which has received attention from across the world.
The Iranian authorities have said that Ms. Amini passed away as a result of a heart attack, and they have refuted the allegations that she was subjected to physical abuse while being transported to a prison facility. Her family has said to many news sites that she was in good health at the time of the arrest; however, The New York Times has not received a response to its requests for comment from them.
According to analysts and rights experts, the demonstrations that have spread throughout the nation are one of the most audacious acts of defiance of the government’s religious and social restrictions in recent years. These limitations have been in place for years.
She stated that the protests had been largely unplanned and leaderless, and that they had probably been inflamed by the photos and videos that had been circulating on social media showing extraordinary scenes across the country. These photos and videos showed women risking arrest by symbolically removing and burning their hijabs in public, which was one of the more prominent examples. On social media, a large number of people have banded together using hashtags in Persian that relate to Ms. Amini’s passing.
A lady was seen on film in the city of Kerman, which is located in the southeast of the country, cutting her hair while seated on top of a utility box in front of an excited throng. Another video shows an elderly lady yelling at a security guard in the city of Shiraz in the south of Iran, saying something to the effect of “If you believe you are a man, come and murder me.” And another showed students at universities in Tehran congregating on university campuses and yelling, “Murders after killings, to hell with morals police!”
As long as the supreme leader, who is 83 years old, is still alive, there is little prospect that the demonstrations would bring about genuine change on such a fundamental matter, according to Sanam Vakil, deputy head of the Middle East programme at Chatham House, a British research centre.
Ms. Vakil warned that people should brace themselves for a “organised coercive reaction” from the government in the next days or weeks. This response is expected to entail a further slowing of internet access, more violence, and further detentions of protestors.