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Iran: when not even the harshest repression stops the mobilization

Picture by Tianlei Wu via Unsplash

It is now almost three months since social anger exploded in Iran against the authoritarian regime that has ruled the country for more than forty years. A regime today headed by President Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and which has engulfed its citizens, especially women, in a yoke of absolute control over their bodies.

It has been precisely they, the women, following the murder of Masha Amini at the hands of the so-called “morality police”, who have promoted and kept alive the successive demonstrations of social discontent and complaints against a regime that seems deaf to the changes in the world.

The force of the demonstrations has been such that the Raisi regime has not been able to silence them as on previous occasions. This time it seems that there is no turning back and that in Iran many things must change.

In recent days, Iran’s Attorney General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, stated that “the ‘morality police’ (gasht-e ershad) has no relationship with the judiciary and has been closed down by the body that created it.” However, he was emphatic in clarifying that “the judiciary will continue to regulate the behavior of people in society”.

Despite the fact that these statements are ambiguous and imprecise, we must highlight that the ‘morality police’ has been questioned. We absolutely reject and repudiate the bloody repression where, according to data from Iran Human Rights and other organizations, more than 400 people have already died.

The strength, courage and persistence of a social movement, led by women, which has not been intimidated by systematic and institutional violence and has achieved various forms of protest, as well as the solidarity of the entire international community and of global civil society, is a source of admiration.

Over the past few months we have seen go viral public and private manifestos of Iranian women confronting the laws that oppress them and confronting their oppressors. These are unprecedented events.

On the other hand, despite the fact that the news of the elimination of the “morality police” is confusing and could be used to try to calm the protest spirits in the streets, it is noteworthy then that citizen pressure is having significant impacts on the political decisions of the authoritarian government of Raisi and Khamenei.

In its most recent report on social protest in the world, the CIVICUS Monitor, highlights how “in Iran, the ruthless repression of the demonstrations still in progress was characterized by the use of lethal force (. ..) The use of live ammunition against groups of peaceful demonstrators by the authorities resulted in hundreds of deaths and numerous injuries. As of October 28, 2022, at least 400 protesters have lost their lives and thousands have been detained.”

Many people have been willing to put their lives at risk in the face of being fed up with living under political systems with zero guarantees of human rights.

It should be noted that the protests in Iran go beyond seeking changes in the penal code that persecutes women. Citizens are asking for profound changes in the political system, a transition towards a Rule of Law that guarantees their well-being and the free decision of people, especially women, about their bodies. Changes are a must.