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Mahsa Amini protests

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Mahsa Amini protests
Part of the
Date16 September 2022 – present (2022-09-16 – present)
(2 months, 3 weeks and 3 days)
Location
Iran, with solidarity rallies worldwide[1]
Caused by
Goals
Methods
StatusOngoing
ConcessionsGuidance Patrol disbanded per Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri
Parties to the civil conflict

Iranian protesters

Support by most anti–Islamic Republic organizations
Lead figures
No centralized leadership[8]
Casualties
Death(s)At least 448 protesters including 60 minors killed (Iran Human Rights) as of 29 November[9]

470 protesters including 64 minors killed, as well as 61 security force members (HRANA), as of 3 December[10]
More than 300 protesters killed, including more than 30 minors, in 25 out of 31 provinces (United Nations), as of 22 November[11]

200 killed (state media) as of 3 December[12]

See casualties for details.
Injuries898+ as of 26 September[13]
Arrestedestimated 18,210 (HRANA, as of 3 December).[10]
As of 4 November, over 14,000 were arrested throughout 134 cities and towns, and at 132 universities (HRANA).[14]
See detainees for notable cases.

Civil unrest and protests against the government of Iran associated with the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini (Persian: مهسا امینی) began on 16 September 2022 and are ongoing as of early December 2022. Amini had been arrested by the Guidance Patrol for allegedly violating Iran's mandatory hijab law by wearing her hijab "improperly" while visiting Tehran from Saqqez. According to eyewitnesses, she had been severely beaten by Guidance Patrol officers.[15] As the protests spread from Amini's hometown of Saqqez to other cities in the province of Kurdistan and throughout the country, the government responded with widespread internet blackouts, nationwide restrictions on social media usage,[16][17] tear gas and gunfire.[18][19][20]

Although the protests have not been as deadly as those in 2019 (when more than 1,500 were killed),[21] they have been "nationwide, spread across social classes, universities, the streets [and] schools", and called the "biggest challenge" to the government of Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.[22] as of 29 November 2022 at least 448 people, including 60 minors, had been killed as a result of the government's intervention in the protests;[note 1] an estimated 18,210 have been arrested [note 2] throughout at least 134 cities and towns, and at 132 universities.[note 3][14][23]

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the widespread unrest not only as "riots" but also as a “hybrid war" caused by foreign states and dissidents abroad.[24][25][26] Women, including schoolchildren, have played a key role in the demonstrations. In addition to demands for increased rights for women, the protests have demanded the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, setting them apart from previous major protest movements in Iran, which have focused on election results or economic woes.[27] The government's response to the protests has been widely condemned.

Background

Since shortly after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iranian women have been legally required to completely cover their hair in public with a hijab. Enforcement of the unpopular law was eased during the 2013–2021 tenure of President Rouhani, but was then intensified under Rouhani's successor, the hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi.[28] Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, was arrested by the Guidance Patrol on 14 September 2022 because of an "improper hijab." The police were accused of beating her and inflicting a fatal head injury;[29] Amini was pronounced dead on 16 September.

Protests

Initial protests, mostly led by women, demanded an end to the mandatory hijab; these protests evolved into a national revolt.[2] The protests became more widespread than those of 2009, 2017, and 2019, encompassing even Islamic Republic power bases such as the holy cities of Mashhad and Qom.[30] Unlike some previous protests, the new protests involved both urban middle classes and rural working areas. In addition, schoolgirls demonstrated in numbers for the first time.[31] While continuing to protest Amini's death and demanding an end to the mandatory hijab, Iranians also advocated for wider freedoms and women's rights,[4] and protested against the morality police,[5] the Ayatollah, and the theocratic regime.[32]

Unlike many previous Iranian protests, protestors appear to be demanding a wholesale change in government rather than limiting themselves to incremental reforms.[3][33] In a November 2022 GAMAAN poll, almost three-quarters of Iranians opposed mandatory hijab; of these anti-hijabis, 84% would prefer a secular Iranian state to theocracy, which GAMANN characterized as an endorsement of regime change.[34][35] According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, economic hardship and poor living conditions contributed to the growth of the protests.[36] The New York Times itemized Iranian grievances such as "soaring prices, high unemployment, corruption, (and) political repression", and identified the poor Iranian economy as a major force behind the protests; according to an Iranian report in August 2021, a third of Iranians live in poverty. Abdolreza Davari, a conservative analyst, has quoted a statistic that 95 percent of Iranians are "worried about their livelihoods today and for their and their children's future."[37] Only 15% of Iranians in the job market are women. Iran ranked 143rd out of 146 countries in the 2022 WEF Gender Gap Report, due in part to prohibitions on female membership in powerful government organizations.[38]

In response to the protests, people held demonstrations in support of the government across several cities in Iran, in an attempt to counter the protests.[39] The Iranian government referred to these counter-protests as "spontaneous".[39] The pro-government protesters called for the anti-government protesters to be executed, and referred to them as "Israel's soldiers" whilst shouting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", reflecting Iran's clerical rulers' usual narrative of putting the blame of the unrest on foreign countries.[39]

Media coverage was constrained by Iranian restrictions on speech, including Internet shutdowns and arrests of journalists. NBC News retained a correspondent in Tehran. Most Western outlets obtained information from networks of contacts, human rights groups, and social media content.[40] According to BBC News, an Iranian government disinformation campaign produced social media videos and fake interviews, and attempted to trick Western media into reporting falsehoods: "They can then say foreign media is reporting fake news".[41]

Actions by protesters

Protesters often stage small and quick, but numerous, "flash mob" gatherings. Drivers have blocked streets with their cars to slow down security forces; roads have also been blocked by dumpster bins or even overturned police cars. Security forces on motorbikes cut through traffic, with passengers firing on protesters. In some cases security forces used paintballs to mark demonstrators; some demonstrators packed extra clothes to replace painted clothes, wore masks to avoid identification, or dismantled public security cameras. Some protesters chanted from windows or rooftops. Symbolic protests include dyeing fountains blood-red, and women discarding and burning their hijabs or cutting their hair in public.

Civil boycotts

Some university teachers and professors declared their support for the student movement by boycotting classes or resigning.[45] They included Nasrollah Hekmat (Shahid Beheshti University), Ammar Ashoori (Islamic Azad University), Lili Galehdaran (Shiraz Art University) and Gholamreza Shahbazi (Art and Soureh Universities), together with Alireza Bahraini, Shahram Khazaei, and Azin Movahed (Sharif University of Technology, Tehran).[45]

Slogans

Demonstrators used slogans and banners that directly criticized the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Khamenei. Protesters showed strong opposition to human rights violations perpetrated by Iran's Guidance Patrol.[46] "Woman, Life, Freedom" (Persian: زن، زندگی، آزادی, romanizedZan, Zendegī, Āzādī, Kurdish: ژن، ژیان، ئازادی, romanized: Jin, Jiyan, Azadî) is the signature slogan of the protests.[47]

Casualties

On 20 September, Esmail Zarei Kousha, governor of the northwestern Kurdistan province, confirmed the first three deaths in the protests, and stated that they were not killed by security forces.[48] As of 26 September, a count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 13 dead, while state-controlled television news suggested that at least 41 had been killed, including protesters and police.[49] On 3 December, the government stated that 200 were killed—a figure still significantly lower than that provided by the United Nations and human rights groups.[12] According to Iran Human Rights, as of 29 November, at least 448 people had been killed, including women and at least 60[9] children.[50][51] Death certificates obtained by the organization confirm that many died from live bullets. The Oslo-based human rights organization however stated that with the current Internet blackouts, it was difficult to get accurate and up-to-date figures.[19] According to Human Rights Activists in Iran, as of 3 December, 470 protesters including 64 minors have been killed.[10] In addition to Amini herself, the death of several women protesters were widely reported by the media, including Nika Shakarami, Hadis Najafi and Sarina Esmailzadeh.[52] According to the families of deceased protesters, Iranian authorities have covered up killings of protesters by pressuring the families of victims, and by fabricating reports of suicides or car accidents.[53][54]

By 25 September, five Basij members had been killed by protesters.[55] By 26 October, when an IRGC officer was killed in Malayer, 33 security force members had been killed.[56] By 3 December, 61 security force members had been killed.[10]

Iran's security forces in tandem with state media have falsely tried to claim that several killed protesters were actually loyalist Basij militiamen killed by the "rioters", and have put pressure on their families with death threats if they do not cooperate.

Number of protesters killed by province as of 8 December, according to Iran Human Rights