Iran: Against a symbol (

The Islamic regime has been shaken by the days of protests, but has not yet shown any signs of faltering.

The Islamic regime has been shaken by the days of protests, but has not yet shown any signs of faltering.

The Islamic regime has been shaken by the days of protests, but has not yet shown any signs of faltering.

Photo: AFP/Atta Kenare

The protests in Iran continue and the government is reacting with full force: at least 76 people have been killed so far. Amnesty International (AI) reported on Friday a leaked official document that on September 21 the Armed Forces General Headquarters ordered the commanders of the armed forces in all provinces to crack down on demonstrators, who they described as “troublemakers and anti-revolutionists”. Security forces used live ammunition. There are also reports of massive beatings and gender-specific and sexualized violence against women, AI said on Thursday.

But the pressure on the regime is increasing, also from abroad. The German Bundestag, for example, condemned the violent suppression of demonstrations critical of the regime across all parties. “The Iranian authorities must stop their brutal actions against the demonstrators immediately,” stressed Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday at a current hour and called for sanctions against those responsible.

Solidarity with Iranian women

Solidarity rallies were held around the world for those protesting in Iran. Around 25 women took to the streets in Afghanistan, and their protest was violently broken up by the security forces of the radical Islamic Taliban. Demonstrations took place in front of the stadium in a small Austrian town outside of Vienna on Tuesday, while the national teams of Senegal and Iran lined up on the pitch in front of empty ranks, by order of the Iranian Football Association. But the Iranian players wore black jackets over their shirts, giving rise to speculation: was it just the cold that caused the national symbol to be obscured ahead of the game? Or was there more behind it?

Meanwhile, the Iranian women’s rights movement Open Stadiums is demanding consequences from Fifa for the violence against the demonstrators and wrote in an open letter to Fifa boss Gianni Infantino: “We call on Fifa to immediately exclude Iran from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.”

The fact is that several Iranian national players had previously supported the protests that have been going on in Iranian cities for several weeks. With good reason: soccer players are regularly and extensively bullied in Iran. Sometimes it’s plucked eyebrows, sometimes it’s the haircut that clubs, football associations or authorities don’t like. But more and more often there are reprisals because the men appear in social networks with women without a headscarf.

Justice chief threatens harsh penalties

This headscarf has now finally become a symbol of bondage, which everyone can feel as soon as they step off the plane: Every step through this country conveys the feeling that someone is watching over what you do and say , is also acceptable. It is difficult to reach contacts in Iran at the moment, also because it must always be assumed that the authorities are listening or reading.

Among the thousands arrested are not only many of those women who demonstratively take off their headscarves. Journalists, actors and TV presenters were also arrested. They must fear drastic penalties: Justice chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei declared, »Those who speak the voice of the enemy are guilty. They will be punished.« These have included the death penalty, flogging and long prison sentences in previous protests. Responsible for this was the man who leads the government today: President Ebrahim Raisi is the predecessor of Mohseni Ejei and a vehement advocate of the so-called Islamic Revolution. As a judge, he is said to have imposed several thousand death sentences on opponents of the regime in the 1980s.

There have been repeated phases of protest in Iran over the past few decades. Students in particular keep taking to the streets to demand more freedoms, and these demonstrations are always put down until they die down without much changing. A lot is different this time: Celebrities, ordinary workers and members of parliament have stood behind the demonstrating women. Iranian oil industry contract workers have even threatened to go on strike if the government doesn’t end its crackdown on protesters, news website Radio Farda reported. The leadership of the otherwise very present Revolutionary Guards, on the other hand, was silent for days before publishing a warning to the demonstrators.

Iranians suffer from economic crisis

Because the headscarf is also a symbol of the social divisions in the country: especially in the villages, the people are extremely conservative and stand behind the Islamic Revolution and the concepts of life associated with it. But resentment has increased there too: the country is stuck in an economic crisis that has massively increased the cost of living. Raisi blames US sanctions for this. In fact, a privatization policy that has been going on for years and inefficient administrative and decision-making structures play a major role. The presidential election was already an expression of growing discontent among the population: many voters followed calls for an election boycott.

In Raisi’s environment, there was great hope that a new edition of the nuclear agreement with the West could bring foreign investment and relief. But now another agreement with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany seems to be a long way off. Because many politicians in Germany, the USA and the European Union have expressed clear criticism, even calling for Iran to be excluded from the World Cup – and for a regime change.

But that is unlikely. Exile groups of different political persuasions are now positioning themselves. Some of them are even calling for the establishment of a repressive regime. None has the structures and expertise to build a new system of government. And so those who take to the streets despite all the threats to their freedom can only hope that change will come from within.


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