Protests continue in Iran over women’s rights, government crackdown

Protesters took to the streets in cities across Iran on Feb. 17 for the first time in weeks, re-sparking demonstrations that have been taking place for months in the country.

Calls of “Death to the Dictator” and “Women, life, freedom” have rung out across Iran as people marched through major cities, including Tehran, Arak and Isfahan. Online videos showed protesters marching in streets filled with riot police, marking 40 days since Iran executed two men in connection with the ongoing demonstrations, the Guardian reported.

At an October protest in Boston, activist Camilia Taheri said Amini’s death was painful to Iranians across the globe.

“It’s just brought out so much anger, so much hurt from all of us,” said Taheri to WHDH. “We can’t keep silent.”

The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died on Sept. 16 after her arrest by Iran’s morality police, reported the New York Times. Amini was arrested on the grounds that she was not wearing her hijab correctly according to Iranian law and died three days after.

Since her death, the protests have evolved to become one of the most widespread and prolific challenges to the Iranian theocracy in recent history, according to the Guardian.

On Feb. 5, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei allegedly ordered “an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for ‘tens of thousands’ of people detained,” some of whom were connected with the anti-government protests, reported NPR. Iran has not confirmed how many people it has detained since protests began in the fall.

“Protesters have been taken away, they’ve been killed on the streets, they shut down our internet so we have no voice to talk with the world,” Taheri said.

According to human rights activists in Iran, at least 529 people have been killed in the demonstrations, while over 19,000 have been detained. 

Nations across the world have expressed concern for the safety of Iranian citizens amidst the government crackdown and widespread arrests.

“I remain gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Iran, including students and women, who are demanding their equal rights and basic human dignity,” said President Joe Biden in an October statement. “…The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery.”

Protests have also erupted across Europe, with people calling for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to be declared a terrorist entity. Demonstrations in Paris and Brussels criticized the IRGC’s involvement with the crackdown and violation of human rights, of which the European Union has been critical.

“The IRGC must be added to the list of designated terrorist organizations by the European Union,” said Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of France’s National Council of Resistance of Iran, at a protest on Feb. 12, according to VOA News.