Hijab protests in Iran and abroad

The Iranian regime promotes the idea that the current demonstrations are motivated by the goals of countries hostile to Iran. Ahmad Abdel-Rahman writes.

Following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police, Iran has witnessed many protests since September 16, when they first began. The Iranian regime not only suppressed the demonstrations at home, but also escalated its attack against external targets, suggesting that they were behind the Iranian demonstrations.

The question now is why these demonstrations differ from others? Why is the regime's violence against the demonstrators increasing? What is its reaction to the internal and external conflict?

These demonstrations are considered the strongest since the 2019 protests, which were against the backdrop of high fuel prices, the violent regime, and the high number of detainees and dead victims.

Although the security services do not tolerate many of the protests, and prefer to not use intimidation and repression to stop them, the anger continues. Moreover, the protesters have developed new forms of tactics, using rooftops and windows, and intensifying chants at night.

The current demonstrations which are related to the status of women and to the repressive state of their lives, are completely different from other protests which, for the most part, have been for economic reasons. As such, these have found international sympathy at both the popular and official levels.

Global support for the demonstrators has varied, There have been demonstrations in many countries, as well as international organisations' reports on the Iranian regime which is deemed repression and for which there is worldwide demand for accountability. Indeed, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has repeatedly called on the Iranian regime to exercise restraint. There is also a call for an international mechanism, which is yet to be determined, to investigate events and to hold Tehran accountable.

The protests have widened. Teachers' unions have announced strikes and student boycotts of schools and colleges. It is also feared that the Iranians may seek to prolong the protests which will mean that global support and solidarity intensifies., This is what the regime fears, so it has turned to bombing abroad and attacking Kurdish targets.

Global support has included Western governments, who have abandoned caution towards the Iranian regime. This is in contrast to the international situation in 2009, when demonstrations erupted to protest the results of former president, Ahmadinejad's elections for a second term. This is known as the "Green Movement."

At that time, the greatest blame was directed at former US President Barack Obama, who was silent in order that Iran would not view the US as interfering in its internal affairs. Obama did not want confrontation with the regime. Rather, he was aiming to contain Tehran and conclude a nuclear agreement with it.

Western support

This time, the administration of US President Joe Biden announced support for the protests in his address to the United Nations General Assembly. Biden called for imposing sanctions on the Iranian morality police. There are also attempts to facilitate internet access for Iranians via satellite away from government censorship. The US Treasury has allowed technology companies in the US to provide additional internet
services in Iran. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said his country would impose sanctions on those responsible for Mahsa Amini's murder, including the Iranian morality police and its leadership. Germany also summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin to urge Tehran to stop its
crackdown and allow peaceful protests. When asked about the possibility of re-imposing sanctions on Iran, a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry also said that his country would consider all options with other European countries. In response to the developments of the situation internally and externally, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard launched attacks with drones and missiles. They targeted the headquarters of three separate Kurdish groups in Iraqi Kurdistan. The regime has also been promoting the belief that the protests have been motivated by external forces. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi blamed hostile countries for provoking the protests.

Despite the uncertainty of when the protests will end, the security system's treatment and work to intimidate citizens and link the protests to the people abroad will probably push Tehran to continue to use excessive force against demonstrators. The Iranian regime
aims to escalate tensions in Iraq against the Kurdish groups in order to distract attention from the internal situation by provoking a crisis in Iraq, and perhaps in order to lure the Kurdish armed opposition to respond, and then suppress the security services by suppressing the demonstrations with brute force.

 Iran considers that the US supports the demonstrators and seeks to destabilise the regime. "Washington is always trying to weaken Iran's stability and security, even though it has not succeeded," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

Despite the differences in the current demonstrations from the past- the current demonstrations are considered the strongest since 2019, due to the centrality of women's rights-  it will be necessary to monitor and wait for the outcome of the situation inside Iran. Externally, despite the official statements of European and American officials in support of the Iranian demonstrators, these governments do not want to escalate tensions with Tehran. They do not want to be seen as intransigent in the face of the few remaining attempts to restore the nuclear

The West, especially Washington DC, has fears about the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war, whether with regard to the energy crisis in Europe or military cooperation between Russia and Iran.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023