The more attention there is on Iran, the more the Islamic Republic is under pressure.
GUEST BLOG / By Holly Dagres via Conde Nast--By now, the world knows her name: Mahsa "Jina" Amini (pictured above). On September 13, the 22-year-old ethnic Kurdish woman was arrested in the capital Tehran by the so-called "morality police" for "violating" mandatory hejab.
According to her brother, it was two hours between the time she was taken from the police station to the hospital. After spending three days in an ICU-it is widely believed that the morality police had brutally beaten her-Amini died on September 16.
That's when her story, initially a Persian language hashtag (#Mahsa_Amini), spread like a wildfire throughout the country only to turn into widescale protests in 30 out of 31 provinces. Here's the latest on the protests, how to follow the latest developments, and how to help the women participating in Iran.
Women and Gen Z are leading the charge Mandatory hejab has always been seen as a symbol of repression under the Islamic Republic and one of the key tools to control women, who make up 60 percent of the country's university graduates. While women are at the forefront of these protests-removing, and in some instances, burning their headscarves, and even cutting their hair-this is very much a youth-facing movement, led by Iranian Generation Z (Gen Z).
Like their western counterparts, this is a tech-savvy generation that has grown up with the internet and social media-albeit heavily censored, as 35 percent of the most popular sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are blocked. Sixty percent of Iran's 84 million population is under the age of 30 and are ruled by an aging clerical establishment-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 83-years-old-with which they have little to nothing in common.
Thanks to certain circumvention tools to bypass internet censorship, Iranians can see how the rest of the world lives and are also able to share on social media and chat about the injustices and double standards in their own society. Anger has been bubbling beneath the surface of this generation for some time now.
Why these demonstrations feel different than past protests
Since December 2017, Iranians across the sociopolitical spectrum have been taking to the streets in the country to demonstrate against mismanagement, corruption, and to voice general disillusionment with the Islamic Republic.
So, while protests are not new in Iran, the fact that the current movement is being led by a younger generation is unparalleled and significant. What's also important to note is that these protests are not just about the morality police or mandatory hejab, but rather about fighting the larger status quo.
Protesters in the streets of numerous cities and provincial towns are saying that they no longer want an Islamic Republic, as evident by the chants of
"Death to Khamenei,"
"Khamenei is a murderer, his guardianship is invalid,"
"I don't want, I don't want an Islamic Republic,"
"This year is bloody, Seyed Ali [Khamenei] will be overthrown," and
"I will fight, I will die, I will take back Iran."
The role of social media-and where to get the latest updates
Over the years, the internet has played a crucial role in spreading information about demonstrations across Iran and has given the international community, media outlets, and Western-based human rights organizations the ability to document and bring attention to the human rights violations committed by security forces.
The internet is also the only way for Iranians to get their voices out in the world. As one activist told me, "Social media is our only hope for making changes here. It has been our way of communicating with the world when we had no other chance." Recognizing the threat of the internet, authorities have in the past implemented a total internet shutdown.
For example, in November 2019 nationwide protests were prompted by a fuel price hike; according to a report by Amnesty International, "authorities deliberately blocked Internet access inside Iran, hiding the true extent of the horrendous human rights violations that they were carrying out across the country."
Even as the current protests in Iran hit day 12 with dozens dead and thousands arrested, there seems to be no sign of them slowing down, for now. This is why keeping the internet on is so integral for the people of Iran and why, after many years, the U.S. government updated its general license for internet freedom on September 23.
Here are a few helpful resources for staying in the know with the latest protests in Iran:
Women activists and journalists:
--Mahsa Alimardani, researcher and advocate for Article19.org
--Roya Boroumand, co-founder of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
--Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran
--Azadeh Pourzand, human rights researcher and writer, and director of the Siamak Pourzand Foundation
--Gissou Nia, director of the Atlantic Council Strategic Litigation Project
--Golnaz Esfandiari, reporter covering Iran for Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
--Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and activist
--The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
--The Human Rights Activists News Agency
--The Center for Human Rights in Iran
How to help
There are other ways ordinary Americans can help the people of Iran such as by contacting their representatives, sharing factually correct news about what's happening inside Iran, and participating in solidarity protests in their respective cities.
Another way to help is by donating to U.S.-based human rights organizations that focus on Iran, such as Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) , and Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
About the Author: Holly Dagres, an Iranian-American, is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. She is the author of the report, Iranians on #SocialMedia. Follow her on Twitter: @hdagres.