09/21/2022, 12.30
IRAN
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Iranian women lead protests over the killing of Mahsa Amini. Victims and arrests

The wave of demonstrations following the death of the young woman at the hands of the 'morality police' has not subsided. Irna speaks of one 'auxiliary' killed and four officers injured in the clashes; at least three victims among the demonstrators. The Supreme Leader sends a loyalist to the family as a sign of condolence; protesters shout "death to the dictator" Khamenei. 

 

 

Tehran (AsiaNews) - In Iran the protest, now in its fifth day, over the death of 22 year old Mahsa Amini in the hands of the morality police who had stopped her because she was not wearing the hijab, the compulsory headscarf, correctly has not subsided.

The young woman's name fills social networks, the hashtag #mahsa_amini is among the most shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where videos of clashes and demonstrations are multiplying, and has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom and rights so much so that it is written on the walls of houses, subways and stations. 

The official Irna news agency speaks of demonstrations in at least 15 cities, with roadblocks, burning rubbish bins and police vehicles, stone throwing, slogans and clashes. Officers responded with tear gas and made arrests in Tehran, Mashhad, Tabriz, Rasht, Ispahan and Kish where the main street protests were concentrated. 

The Kurdish-Iranian activist group Hengaw, based in Norway, speaks of at least three confirmed victims among protesters in Divandareh, Saqqez and Dehglan. More than 220 people are reported injured and at least 250 arrested in the Kurdish region alone, where workers crossed their arms for a general strike on 19 September. Irna responded by accusing the protesters of violence, responsible for the wounding of four police officers and the death 'of an auxiliary' in the southern city of Shiraz. 

The fear is that the authorities are waiting for a serious incident, or the pretext, to attack and bloodily repress the street demonstrations, the largest since the vast 2019 protest against high fuel prices. And with a substantial difference compared to three years ago: today the main protagonists are women, on the front line to denounce the violence and repression of which they are victims, not least the obligation to wear the veil, a legacy of a radical Muslim culture and a patriarchal society.

Videos of young and not-so-young women taking off their veils - and in some cases setting fire to them - are multiplying on social networks, defying the dictates of the authorities and the laws of the Islamic Republic on the subject of the hijab, a symbol of oppression.  

The violence, a symptom of a social malaise that fanned the flames of protest, was triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the morality police on 13 September in Tehran, where she was on a short holiday.

She was accused of wearing 'inappropriate clothing' and was transferred to a barracks where she emerged hours later in a coma. Officials speak of a 'heart attack' and 'underlying illnesses', but the same radiological examinations show deep head injuries consistent with violent beatings. Her death occurred three days later, on 16 September.

The incident brings to the fore certain sharia-inspired rules of the Islamic Republic, including the obligation to wear a headscarf and a strict dress code, which includes below-the-knee dresses, bans tight trousers, jeans and bright colours. To 'supervise' the observance of these rules, often resorting to the use of violence with the collaboration of the Basij militia, are the Moral Police squads that tour the cities in minivans, often in mixed teams of men and women.

The actual need for their presence was the subject of debate during the 2009 presidential elections (also followed by post-election violence and repression), with reformist candidates calling for their disbandment. However, no action was taken and still today it is free to act - and strike - with total impunity.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to curb the discontent, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sent one of his loyalists to the victim's family to offer the institutions' condolences, but this was not enough to dampen the protest that resulted in slogans and chants including "death to the dictator" (Khamenei) and "woman, life, freedom".

In an attempt to contain the further amplification and spread of the uprising, the government repeatedly blocked communication and internet services in Tehran and in various areas of the Kurdish province. 

The United States, France (President Macron met his counterpart Raisi for talks on the nuclear negotiations in New York) and the United Nations have intervened in the matter in recent hours, expressing firm words of condemnation.

The accusations have been rejected by Tehran, whose Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani defines as "disgraceful" the "exploitation" of what he calls an "incident" by some countries to "pursue political objectives". 

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