WALL – A series of protests broke out in Iran after Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police on the grounds that her hair was showing, and died as a result of the violence she saw.
On September 16, after the announcement of Amini’s death, people across the country began to take to the streets. Nine days have passed since the protests and the protests have spread to more than 20 cities. According to the official authorities, at least 35 people have been reported to have lost their lives so far among the demonstrators who were subjected to harsh attacks by the police. Human rights associations stated that this figure is 50.
In Iran, women protest Amini’s murder by burning their headscarves and cutting her hair. Besides women, men are also at the forefront of the protests. We talked to 38-year-old Aref, who has been participating in the demonstrations in Tehran since the very beginning, about the struggle of the Iranian people, which has been going on for days.
‘THIS IS NOT THE FIRST’
Translator Aref talks about the weariness caused by the long-standing problems in the country, even though the protests started with the murder of Amini. Aref, explaining that the economic crisis is a part of their daily lives and that the behavior of the morality police is getting tougher, comments that the current protests are “like a domino”.
Reminding that he took part in the demonstrations in Iran in 2009, Aref says, “This is not the first time,” and conveys the following: “I was 25 years old at that time. So this is not the first action. Problems such as the pressure of the moral police on the public and the economic crisis are the things that people here are actually trying to cope with and struggle with in their daily lives. Similar incidents took place before Mahsa, regarding the headscarf. But they did not interest the people of the world. For example, a month ago, the morality police caught a woman and forced her into a van. Two months ago, two people had an argument about the headscarf on the bus. They caught the young woman on the grounds that she was wearing the headscarf inappropriately and sent her to prison. They even made him say he made a mistake by putting it on TV. In short, it is not the only event Mahsa has experienced. It affects each other like dominoes.”
‘WE ARE YOUR PASSAGE HERE’
Aref, emphasizing that there are many people among the Iranian people who do not want the regime, makes the analogy of “hostage” for themselves. Stating that it is not easy to want to push back the current regime and to achieve this, Aref said, “Their supporters are very cruel and they do not see us as part of the people. It’s like a big prison…” he says. He states that when they share their opinions about the regime on social media applications such as Clubhouse, they are threatened with being killed and beaten by the supporters of the regime.
Stating that the police attacked the demonstrators more violently after the return of Iranian President Ibrahim Reisi from the USA, Aref says, “Everyone’s biggest fear is that after this action, a great silence prevails like the previous actions…” Expressing that many people were injured and died during the demonstrations, he also mentions that the figures announced are not clear. According to Aref, it is impossible to trust the official figures.
‘THEY ARE TRYING TO COVER THE OTHER PROBLEMS IN THE COUNTRY WITH THE SCARF’
Regarding the struggle between men and women on the streets, Aref said, “Actually, there are many people who are against the headscarf even among the supporters of the regime. The headscarf is another issue, which we have been dealing with for 40 years. But the real problem is how morality cops behave. Over time they have become much more brutal. They are trying to cover up all the other problems in the country with it. They draw all the attention to this issue. “The emergence of these protests is because of the regime’s behavior,” he said.
Noting that many people in the regime have talked about revising or even canceling the headscarf issue, Aref says, “I can’t predict what will happen if the regime succeeds in attracting people from the streets.” However, he is happy that the protests are getting more crowded day by day. He even explains it with these words: “Six days after their protest started, people thought there would be fewer people on the streets last night, but on the contrary, it got more crowded. The good news is that the actions are spread all over the place, not just in certain areas.”
‘GENERATION Z IS VERY BRAVE’
Actions have no leader or spokesperson. Aref also underlines this point and expresses some concerns: “These actions do not have a leader and one of the criticisms of the people is that a common agreement cannot be reached because there is no leader. It’s not really about leadership, people are just fed up with these issues. People are tired and fed up with the pressure, economic and social problems they experience in their daily lives.”
In the videos circulating on social media, it is seen that men and women of all ages struggle side by side. One of the striking aspects in these images is the presence of young people… Aref expresses that he admires the courage of Generation Z. Describing the hopelessness of 20-25-year-olds, Aref conveys his observations on the street as follows: “Because after the demonstrations in 2009, when I was 25 years old and I was a part of the protests, we could not leave a brighter horizon for future generations. So we didn’t have any more energy left. But these young people are completely different from us. They are very brave. They are not afraid of the police, you have seen in the videos, they are fighting, shouting in the face of the police. Because this is not a win-win situation, but rather a lose-lose situation…”
Editor’s Note: The name in the article has been changed for security reasons.