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 Iran’s bloody month of protests

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On February 05, Iranian authorities arrested 29 people as part of a crack down on protests against the compulsory hijab (headscarves mandatory for women). The movement, which has been named “the Girls of Revolution Street”, started after a woman took off her headscarf in central Tehran. This movement is a new addition of vicious month long people’s protests on various counts  in the month of January 2018, that Iran faced. Iran has arrested nearly 5,000 people during recent protests, according to an Iranian member of Parliament. It is estimated that  that local authorities arrested thousands of demonstrators in January.  However, according to an information most of the detainees have been released but 492 remained in custody pending investigation.

Reason of protest

Early protests expressed anger over rising egg prices.

Iran’s recent protests began as a relatively small venture on December 28 in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, but soon gained traction and have continued into 2018.Initial protests expressed anger over the economy and  the skyrocketing prices of basic necessities like eggs and poultry.   The movement was popular with working class citizens under 25, who have suffered under international sanctions which have affected Iran’s economic growth. Protests quickly moved to target Iran’s political leaders and calls have been made for the country’s supreme leader  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down. At least 21 people have died during demonstrations, including an 11-year-old boy, but the number could be closer to 25.

Recent protests have again shifted focus, this time objecting to Iran’s mandatory hijab laws. The hijab protests were started by Masih Alinejad, the founder of  My Stealthy Freedom , an online movement that opposes the dress code. The hashtag # WhiteWednesdays spread quickly across social media, with women posting pictures of themselves wearing white as a symbol of protest. At least 29 women have been arrested in Tehran for removing their head scarves in public. Many women recorded their acts of defiance, waving their headscarves around in busy crowds. Women of all ages reportedly joined in to protest the strict hijab laws.

Background

A series of public protests occurred in various cities throughout Iran beginning on 28 December 2017 and continuing into 2018. The first protest took place in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city by population, initially focused on the economic policies of the country’s government; however, as protests spread throughout the country, their scope expanded to include political opposition to the theocratic regime of Iran and its longtime Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. According to The Washington Post, protesters’ chants and attacks on government buildings upended a system that had little tolerance for dissent, with some demonstrators even shouting “Death to the dictator!” — referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and asking security forces to join them.

The protests mark the most intense domestic challenge to the Iranian government since the 2009 presidential election protests. However, these protests differ from the Green movement in participants, causes, goals, and chants. While some analysts suggest the protests are a result of unfavorable economic policies adopted by the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, others say that dissatisfaction with the theocratic regime and the Supreme Leader are the actual causes of the unrest. Rouhani acknowledged on 8 January 2018 that “people had economic, political and social demands”.

According to Iranian authorities, protests turned violent in some parts of the country, and Iranian state television reported that the protesters attacked police stations and military personnel and installations, and started fires. As of 2 January 2018, at least twenty-one protesters and two security force members had been killed. Additionally, 3,700 demonstrators were arrested according to Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist lawmaker from Tehran, though official figures were much lower. On 5 January 2018, four special rapporteurs of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Iranian government to acknowledge and respect rights of protesters and end its blocking of the Internet.

In a backlash against the protests, thousands of government supporters staged pro-government rallies in more than a dozen cities across Iran.

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