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Iran’s Ferocious Return to the Belligerent Policies of the Revolution’s Early Days - 25.09.22

The country’s new President, Ebrahim Raisi, is cracking down on women, arming Russia, and playing hardball with the U.S. on nuclear diplomacy by Robin Wright for the New Yorker.

Mahsa Amini, a twenty-two-year-old Kurd who was visiting relatives in Tehran this month, had raven hair that draped over her shoulders and ran long down her back. A music lover who worked in a clothing store, she liked taking pictures blowing the wispy seeds off a dandelion clock. Like so many Iranian women four decades after the Revolution, she was wearing the compulsory hijab, or head scarf, loosely over her head as she emerged from the subway with her younger brother, Kiarash, on September 13th. Some of her hair showed. With no warning, Iran’s morality police nabbed her for wearing “unsuitable attire.” She was bundled off to a reëducation center that instructs women how to comply with the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. The police told her brother that she would be released later that night. She wasn’t.

The next picture of Amini, released via social media, showed her on a ventilator in a Tehran hospital. She was in a coma; her head was bloodied. Three days after her arrest, she was declared brain-dead. At first, the government claimed that she had died of a heart attack. Then it released a video showing her in the reëducation classroom, walking across the aisle, beginning to faint, then collapsing onto the ground. Her family claimed that she had been healthy; they charged that she suffered head injuries from being beaten by the police. “The cause of the accident is clear as day,” Amini’s uncle told an Iranian media outlet. “What happens when they grab girls and stick them in the car with such ferocity and terror? Do they have the right? They know nothing about Islam, nor humanity.”

News of Amini’s death lit the fuse of long-smoldering dissent in Iran. Protests ignited in Tehran and Saqez, her home town in the Kurdish northwest, then spread across eighty cities during the next week. Women burned their hijabs in public bonfires. Others—in groups and alone—posted videos showing themselves cutting their hair almost to the scalp. In major cities and small towns, thousands of women and men gathered to wave posters with Amini’s photo and to demand change—over more than hijab. “Death to the oppressor!” crowds roared. Some dared to call for the death of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been Iran’s Supreme Leader since 1989. Police tried to contain the crowds with tear gas and pellet guns. Ten days after Amini’s death, at least thirty protesters had been killed—some accounts put the number much higher—in the worst protests in Iran since 2019. One of them was a sixteen-year-old boy, the BBC reported.

Protests spread across the Middle East, then to Europe and North America. A candlelight vigil was held in Los Angeles, and demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Ebrahim Raisi rallied outside the U.N. in New York. Four topless members of Femen—with “Women, Life, Freedom” painted in big black letters across their chests—raised their fists outside the Iranian Embassy in Madrid. Women cut off their hair, in sympathy, in a Berlin protest. Police scuffled with protesters outside the Iranian Embassy in Athens.

Amid the growing international outcry, Raisi arrived at the U.N. General Assembly in New York—his first trip to the United States, and his début at the world body—full of his own fury. During a fiery address to the U.N., he angrily waved a large photograph of General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ notorious Quds Force, who was assassinated in a drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump in 2020. Raisi called for Trump to be tried for the murder as “a service to humanity, so that from now on, cruelty will be silenced, and justice will prevail.”

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Iran’s Ferocious Return to the Belligerent Policies of the Revolution’s Early Days - By Ro
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Amid nationwide protests, government loyalists gathered at a counter-demonstration and President Raisi vowed a crackdown. Photograph by Morteza Nikoubazl / NurPhoto / Getty

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