“Even if the ayatollahs and their armed forces succeed in suppressing this latest uprising, the dream of a more democratic Iran will only be delayed, never extinguished.”
That was the last line of it published an editorial by means of The age in January 2018, when – as now – the Islamic Republic of Iran resorted to brutal repression despite massive popular protests. A country second only to China in using the death penalty then managed to quell dissent as it beat back the 2009 Green Movement, an uprising that began with claims that the presidential election were rigged.
The Green movement converged around the face of a young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, whose death at the hands of a state paramilitary officer was captured on a phone camera. The protests that began in September were sparked by the death of another young woman, but her identity made this wave of unrest very different.
She was not a political protester in the streets of Tehran, but a visitor, there to see her brother. She fell in violation of the Guidance Patrol, which enforce the state’s rules on how women should dress in public. Long before that fateful day, state laws had forced her to adopt a middle name, one that was officially acceptable, to cover her real Kurdish name. So Jina Amini became “Mahsa”.
The protests, now entering their third month, have been led by women across Iran who see themselves in Jina and draw strength from the festering oppression of Iran’s Kurdish, Arab and Baloch minorities. Above all, they take place in the midst of a storm of economic problems fueled by drought, international sanctions and the war in Ukraine.
Inflation in Iran is just over 48 percent. Food prices have risen sharply, while the state’s longstanding subsidy system is under strain.
In a country where more than 60 percent of the population is under 30 and has no personal memory of the 1979 Islamic revolution or the Shah’s autocracy that preceded it, nearly a third of households are in poverty.
Before the “Woman, Life, Freedom” hashtag, there was the “macaroni” hashtag, as the price of the flour Iranians relied on for pasta skyrocketed.