The death of Mahsa Amini a month ago sparked a wave of protests in Iran, in one of the biggest challenges facing the authorities since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but whose outcome is uncertain, according to experts.
The spark that ignited the mobilizations was the death in detention of Amini, after being arrested by the morality police for violating the strict dress code for women.
Since then, numerous women have been demonstrating with anti-government slogans by burning their veils, a movement that has spread to Iranian Kurdistan, Amini’s home region, and has also reached schools, universities and even oil refineries.
Tehran’s Evin prison, where political prisoners and foreigners are held, also saw clashes on Saturday night. A fire in said prison left a balance of four prisoners dead and 61 injured. State television broadcast a video apparently showing that calm had returned to the facility.
Asked about the prison fire, US President Joe Biden told reporters during a campaign trip to Portland on Saturday that the Iranian government was “very oppressive” and that he was surprised by the courage of the protesters. .
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Biden had interfered in state affairs by showing support for anti-government protests.
Rights groups said at least 240 protesters had been killed in the anti-government protests, including 32 minors. More than 8,000 people have been detained in 111 cities and towns, the Iranian activist news agency HRANA reported on Saturday.
Iran, which has blamed its internal and external enemies for the violence, denies that security forces killed the protesters. State media said on Saturday that at least 26 members of the security forces had been killed by “rioters”.
A “real change”
Iran – which lives under harsh sanctions from the United States – is suffering a serious economic crisis and has already registered protest movements in recent years, such as in 2009 after the disputed re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad or in 2019 when people took to the streets to protest against a brutal rise in the price of energy.
But none of these movements had threatened the foundations of the Islamic Republic to such an extent, said Shadi Sadr, director of Justice for Iran, a UK-based NGO.
“The uprising began as a response to the restrictions placed on women … but, it evolved into a campaign to topple the regime,” the US-based Soufan Center said in a study.
Never before have slogans such as “death to the dictator” or broken images of the supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, been recorded.
Videos show protesters resisting security forces by setting police cars on fire and even setting up barricades.
This uprising left in the background the traditional political struggles in the country, between reformists and conservatives, and captured international attention, which for several months had been focused on the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.
“The demonstrators changed the dominant discourse by calling for real change. They say ‘no’ to the entire political regime,” said Shadi Sadr.
With information from Reuters and AFP.