Protests continue in Iran amid government crackdown
Students and young people demonstrated in more than 200 cities and towns across Iran. The protests and rallies have been going on for two months, despite the brutal crackdown ordered by the government of President Ebrahim Raisi, with solidarity demonstrations in Europe, the United States and parts of the Middle East.
The first protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the regime’s morality police after her arrest for “abusive” wearing of the hijab. Fueled by widespread anger over social and economic conditions, including high unemployment, corruption and the monopolization of political power by the Shia clerical establishment, protests that began in Kurdish provinces quickly turned into larger anti-government rallies. wide across the country.
However, having made no appeal to the working class, the largely leaderless youth movement has attracted little active support from working people, apart from brief strikes by teachers and oil workers last month. leaving them vulnerable to government repression.
The appalling living conditions are largely the result of the brutal sanctions regime imposed by Washington after the Trump administration unilaterally abandoned the 2015 nuclear deals. It was almost a declaration of war on Iran. While the new Biden administration has said it wants to reinstate the deal, talks have been stalled by ever-increasing demands from Washington, which broke down in September. Iran’s oil exports have plummeted, cutting into the country’s most important source of revenue, while its currency has fallen to an all-time low against the dollar.
Amid threats and provocative military actions, President Joe Biden has sought to establish an anti-Iranian alliance of Gulf states, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Israel. Tel Aviv, acting as Washington’s attack dog, has stepped up its aggressive airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean, even as it commits acts of sabotage in Iran.
According to official figures, inflation in Iran is 54% and food prices have risen more than 100% since President Ebrahim Raisi took office last August. Last May, his government began scrapping subsidies worth up to $15 billion on the import of basic foods, medicine and animal feed, although he said he there would be cash assistance to some families. Young Iranians – two-thirds of Iran’s 85 million people are under 30 – are among the hardest hit. Some 27 percent are out of work, with people in ethnic minority areas of Sistan-Balochistan and Kurdistan among the worst affected.
In addition to protests over Amini’s death, there have been demonstrations in Sistan-Balochistan, near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, over the alleged rape of a teenage girl by a police officer. An “unprecedented” crackdown on Baluchis by security forces in the provincial capital of Zahedan in late September killed at least 82 people.
Although the protests were smaller than those of 2018 to 2019, they lasted longer than any since the movement that toppled the Shah’s regime, with protesters calling for the downfall of the ruling establishment and Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They have been met with far greater violence from the authorities, with prominent figures calling for mass trials and harsh sentences, including the death penalty.
Security forces attacked unarmed protesters with live ammunition, beat them with batons and fired tear gas at funerals, in the streets and in universities and high schools, killing 318 protesters, including at least 49 children , according to US-based human rights activists. News Agency (HRANA). 38 members of the security forces were killed.
The funerals of the dead sparked further protests, with young people shouting slogans such as “Death to the dictator” and “Women, life, freedom!”
Memorial rallies were held to commemorate the 40th day of mourning for the victims in at least 10 towns that were dismantled by armed riot police.
At least 14,000 people were arrested, including 392 students. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said 54 journalists had been arrested, a dozen of whom were released on bail. The government has severely restricted Internet access and communications.
On Sunday, lawmakers called on Iran’s judiciary to take ‘decisive’ action against protesters, whose actions they called ‘riots’ and ‘seditions’, saying the US was targeting Iran to operate a change of diet. The United States and its allies had “openly entered the scene”, providing funding and encouraging “thugs” to attack security forces, killing dozens. They called on the judiciary to punish the aggressors with equal consequences, which means calling for the death penalty.
Some personalities have called for dialogue with the protesters, with Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamadani urging the government to listen to the demands of the people. Former Majles speaker, now senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ali Larijani, said “the government in Tehran absolutely needs to listen to the other side.” He advised the government to take into account that “perhaps the other side is also partly right”. Nevertheless, he added that the “enemies” of Iran were behind the uprising, saying: “The enemy has targeted Iran as a whole… In a neighboring country, the Americans are openly telling the counter- Iranian revolutionaries to be active and put pressure on Tehran. .”
Tehran has repeatedly accused the United States and Israel of orchestrating the protests and accused Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, of inciting violence, stoking ethnic and religious tensions and collaborating with Kurdish groups in exile. Last week, in a joint statement with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s intelligence services accused two Iranian journalists who publicized Amini’s death of being foreign agents trained by the United States to sow chaos, which led to their arrest and detention by the authorities.
Iran has also accused Saudi Arabia of fueling the unrest by funding its Persian-language network, Iran International, which widely reported on the protests.
The major powers wasted no time in denouncing Tehran for “violent repression of peaceful demonstrators”.
Late last month, the Biden administration unveiled a new round of sanctions targeting Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, a provincial governor and other Iranian officials implicated in the Tehran crackdown. Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union have followed suit.
Washington has also allowed internet software companies to circumvent sanctions to provide SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service to the Iranian market to evade state internet restrictions. He tried to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women and form an investigative body under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council. Iran’s UN ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani denounced it, telling reporters that its purpose was ‘clearly to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state’ in violation of the UN Charter. United.
US and European imperialist powers have also seized reports that Russia is using drones supplied by Tehran in its invasion of Ukraine, potentially opening another front in the war.
Speaking at a campaign rally in California last Thursday, Biden vowed to “liberate Iran,” adding that protesters would “break free very soon.”