Jaime Leon I

Tehran (EFE).- The death of Mahsa Amini managed to galvanize thousands of Iranians with grief and empathy with protests across Iran, unlike other occasions when protests were reduced to fragmented social groups mobilized by the economy.

The protests began tentatively on Friday, September 16, after news of the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested three days earlier by the so-called morale police for wrongfully wearing the veil. The outrage has spread with protests growing in size, in more parts of the country and more violent. So far, at least 17 people have died in the protests, Iranian state television reported on Thursday 22, and the number of injured exceeds half a thousand.

In the Persian country, protests are nothing new: in 2019 many Iranians took to the streets due to rising fuel prices, and in 2020 and 2021 droughts sparked protests.

This year, 2022, retirees demonstrated for their pensions, while rising bread prices prompted many Iranians to once again defy the authorities with street protests.

But all these protests have been limited to the groups or social classes that started them, despite the fact that they were suppressed by the security forces and that many of them resulted in deaths, such as in 2019, when around 300 protesters died.

However, the protests over Amini’s death went further and broke the fragmentation of Iranian society.

Youth and women lead protests

“These protests are driven by pain, not mere grievances. The pain paved the way for a new and broader mobilization,” explains analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj in an article.

Thus, people from different backgrounds and social classes joined the protests, expressing a “solidarity” that previous demonstrations had not achieved, according to the columnist.

Young people, especially women, are leading the protests rocking more than 20 cities these days, but there are also many older people.

Academic Ali Alfoneh defended on Twitter that on this occasion even the most disadvantaged wonder why these measures were taken against Mahsa Amini and yet “the laws of morality are not applied in the luxury shopping centers in the north of Tehran”.

Clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Tehran on September 21. EFE/EPA

“That’s why Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody sparked outrage that united the middle class and the poor,” he said.

The veil, a non-negotiable symbol in Iran

The veil is one of the non-negotiable symbols of the Islamic Republic of Iran despite the rejection of this garment by part of the population, as evidenced by the demonstrations of recent days.

Many young women have lifted the veil in these protests as a clear symbol of rebellion, considering that its obligatory nature is a violation of their fundamental rights.

This gesture was accompanied by cries such as “Justice, freedom and no compulsory hijab” or “Women, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator, death to the dictator”, among others.

Even the nuns, who wear the chador (a black garment that covers the whole body except the face) and do not go to demonstrations, are against his obligation.

A veiled woman walks down the street in the Iranian capital. EFE/EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

“People have to decide how to dress,” a conservative Tehran resident, who usually wears the chador, told EFE. Another woman from the capital explained that she covers herself with the veil even at home, but that her daughter wears it as little as possible.

“The new generations are different. They should remove it,” he said.

“Naked” without veil, according to Khomeini

Having become an integral part of the faith, the veil is perhaps the greatest reminder that the theocracy established by Ayatollah Ruholá Khomeini in 1979 is still standing.

The religious leader declared that without this garment the women were “naked” and assured that just by covering the hair of the women the revolution was already “a success”.

More than four decades after the founding of the Islamic Republic, the garment is ubiquitous on the streets of the country, where it is rare to see a headless woman covered even by covering the top of her head.

In fact, its use is required by law, and women who fail to cover up in public face jail time and fines.

Despite its ubiquity and symbolic power, the imposition of the veil has not been without controversy. Indeed, when Khomeini announced compulsory clothing in 1979, women demonstrated in the streets for six days.

The ayatollah backed down, but a year later made headscarves compulsory in government posts, and in 1983 the hijab became compulsory for all women.

With the accession to the presidency of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisí in August last year, the pressure on women to conform to strict dress rules has increased with more arrests by the dreaded morale police.

Web editor: Oscar Tomasi

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