How experts and students analyze the protests in Iran

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Iranian protest. Illustrated | Getty Images

Since several weeks, protests rage in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the vice squad and later died in their custody. She was arrested in Tehran by officers whose job it is to enforce the strict and compulsory dress code for Iranian women, which requires that they cover their hair.

Powerful footage from the protests shows women cutting their hair in the streets and burning their hijabs, proudly defying the armed security forces standing in front of them. Despite the risk of arrests and even death — human rights groups believe at least 150 people were killed during the protests, teenagers and university students played a major role in the uprising, demanding an end to the Islamic Republic regime. In fact, it is the under 25s, mostly women, who are fueling the protests, CBS News reports.

Like being in a war zone

Iranian students have been protesting on university campuses daily since Saturday, the first official day of the academic year, shouting, “The mullahs must get lost!” and, referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “Death to the dictator!” The scene was particularly chaotic on Sunday afternoon at the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, where hundreds of students holding a sit-in soon found themselves facing armed riot police, security forces and the Basiji — executors of the rules of morality.

Witnesses Told The New York Times the Basiji fired into the crowd and the students, taking paintballs and rubber bullets to the head, neck and legs, began to fall to the ground. Teachers who heard the screams ran outside and surrounded the students to form a human shield around them, witnesses said. Some who approached the Basiji and demanded to escort students safely off campus were kicked, knocked to the ground or beaten with batons.

“We thought they were going to kill us,” said Mahan, a 25-year-old engineering student. Time. “It was as if we were in a war zone and the enemy was stalking us looking for victims to kill.” A Professor Sharif called it “the darkest and most horrific day in the history of the university. I have never experienced anything like it. The trauma of what happened will stay with the students and all faculty for the rest of our lives.”

“They can’t stop us all”

Sharif is a renowned school that attracts elite students. By suppressing the protesters, the authorities were sending a clear message to other students. “If your ultimate goal is to retain power, you want to limit or dismantle any form of effective mobilization of thought and dissent,” said Reza H. Akbari, social movements expert in Iran at the American University of Washington. . Time. “That’s why they see the students as such a threat. They know his potential. They’ve seen what he can do.”

The violence was not enough to stop the other university students; in fact, it bolstered their support, and demonstrations of solidarity broke out on other campuses. Witnesses Told Reuters that Iranian security forces were deployed to several universities on Wednesday, but this was not a deterrent. “Everyone is on the street,” one student said in a video. “We have to keep going. They can’t stop us all.”

The time for change has come

Previous uprisings in Iran sparked by outrage over the economy, elections and gas prices were quickly “stifled by the iron fist of a regime with little tolerance for dissent”. writing The Washington Postis Ishaan Tharoor. The recent protests, however, “could be something different”. The protesters are met “with predictable brutality”, says Tharoor, but they continue to march, seemingly fearless and more determined than ever to send a message.

Generation Z — anyone born between 1997 and 2012 — is decades away from Iran’s 1979 revolution. They grew up differently — they have access to social media (albeit censored) and the means to see what’s happening outside of Iran — and are fed up with sanctions and isolation, Maziar Bahari, the London-based editor of IranWire, told CBS News. Bahari’s generation “gave the government the chance to reform”, but today’s youth can clearly see “the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed, so this government must be eliminated”, he said. declared. Under Iran’s current leadership, young people are “getting poorer”, Bahari continued. “They are humiliated in school. They are humiliated in the streets by the morality police…their country is humiliated by the world because of their type of government. So imagine living in this country. You want change . You want change today.”

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