Iran: Mourners defy police and gather at Mahsa Amini’s grave
A wave of fresh protests will erupt across Iran next weekend as people mark the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, Iranians said last night.
The 22-year-old student’s death while in custody following her arrest for not properly wearing a headscarf prompted demonstrations in every Iranian city which have still not fully abated.
Last night demonstrators told how even their own arrests and torture in prison have not dissuaded them for continuing to protest against the regime’s draconian laws.
Experts had predicted that the extent of national discontent over Amini’s death – which reflected a range of issues beyond the wearing of headscarves to Iran’s tumbling economy and mass unemployment – was beginning to reveal terminal fault lines which would spell the end of the regime.
But a recent deal by US President Biden to pay the regime billions of dollars in return for hostages has, they feared, killed these hopes for now.
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“These protests never fully died out since they erupted last September, but Saturday’s anniversary will act as the next rallying point and we should expect the protests to become widespread once more,” said Iran expert Catherine Perez-Shakdam.
“The regime is also expecting this, and has been targeting key individuals including academics and journalists over recent weeks. “
But hopes that the regime was crumbling under the strain have been dashed by US President Joe Biden’s decision to unfreeze £7bn in sanctioned Iranian cash for the return of hostages.
Officially, the money, held in South Korea and Iraq will only be used to pay for humanitarian needs, but the mechanism remains unclear.
Ms Perez-Shakdam added: “A few months ago, the regime was over the edge and was vulnerable to one last push. But, whatever the US administration says, the regime has now effectively been propped up by a $9bn injection, and that’s a problem.”
Speaking last night from their home in Iran, protestors told of their ordeals. Soosan, a 30-year-old nursing student, was sexually abused by guards after her arrest during protests in October.
“Because of my beliefs I choose to wear a headscarf, but I deeply believe that women should be free to choose their clothes,“ she said last night.
Soosan, whose father runs a recycling business, was arrested as she protested in her native city of Ardabil, north west Iran.
“I was arrested along with four of my friends. When we were taken to prison we saw that many of those who had been arrested were very young. Some were even teenagers. I could see that many had been badly beaten. It wasn’t too long before it happened to me, too.
“I am ashamed to say this, but I was sexually abused by prison guards. They wanted to film me saying that I had been wrong to demonstrate, and threatened that if I didn’t cooperate they would arrest my father too, But I held firm and they backed down.”
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Nooshin, was attached to the dissident Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) opposition group and had been one the leaders of demonstrations in her native Isfahan.
Had the authorities discovered her link to the group, she would have been executed.
Speaking last night the 26-year-old, who works as a cashier despite having a bachelor’s degree in accounting, said: “I was arrested while chanting against (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei.
“I was interrogated for a month without even knowing which prison I was in. Physical abuse soon became routine and I was often placed in solitary confinement. They constantly threaten to arrest my family. Of course, this was my biggest concern.
She added: “It is true that the demonstrations started against the mandatory hijab and poverty and high prices, but as soon as it continued, more people joined the protests and it became more widespread. We all see what is happening and we are all waiting for next week’s anniversary.
“What I have noticed is that something important has changed. More and more people are willing to take real risks to express their anger at this regime.”
NCRI / MEK spokesman Shahin Gobadi said: “Iran has witnessed at least seven nationwide uprisings in the past five years, but Iran changed forever following the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16 last year.
“These demonstrations have expanded in scope, and gained broader social support with the unequivocal objective of toppling the entire regime.
“Tehran is extremely worried about the prospect of another uprising coinciding with last year’s demonstrations, partly because it knows that key factors contributing to uprisings have intensified, with rising public discontent.”
He added: “It is no coincidence that top regime officials, including IRGC commanders, have repeatedly cautioned their forces about the gravity of the situation, emphasising that even the slightest rift could jeopardise the regime in its entirety.”
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