Protests continue in Iran. Here’s what you need to know | Chicago News

Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against the death of a woman in the custody of vice police, in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 21, 2022. (Associated Press)

(CNN) — Demonstrations continued across Iran on Sunday despite government crackdowns and state media saying protesters had ended their rallies.

The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in a hospital three days after she was apprehended by morality police in Tehran and taken to a ‘re-education centre’ for breaking prison rules. State relating to hijab. .

Protests have since taken place in more than 40 cities, including the capital Tehran, and dozens of people have reportedly been killed in clashes with security forces. At least 1,200 have been arrested, according to state-backed media.

Rallies that began with calls for justice for Amini’s death have morphed into a broader protest, uniting a range of factions and social classes, many of whom are calling for the regime’s downfall.

Here’s what you need to know about the protests:

How are current protests different?

Today’s protests are reminiscent of earlier anti-government movements, but the key issues driving today’s mobilization are different, experts say, which arguably makes them more important.

Previous waves of protests – in 2019, 2021 and more recently this year – were mainly fueled by economic grievances, says Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and CEO of the Stock Exchange & Bazaar Foundation in London, adding that it was one of the main reasons why the demonstrations did not take place. move on to other segments of society.

“It’s different, because what people are really asking for is a bigger type of political change,” Batmanghelidj said, adding that this movement has made it “easier to generate solidarity between different social groups.”

Today’s protests are also bringing together young Iranians with internet access who did not experience Iran before the Islamic Republic, said Sanam Vakil, senior researcher for the Middle East and North Africa program at the group. Chatham House reflection in London.

How safe does the government feel now?

The government doesn’t seem to feel any more vulnerable than before, said Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC. “And they can miscalculate here.”

Observers expect the protests to escalate. On Sunday, one of Iran’s main teachers’ unions called for a nationwide strike. Workers’ strikes are sensitive in Iran because they bring back memories of the 1979 revolution, when collective labor action acted as a useful tactic that helped bring down the Shah.

“I think it is very likely that we will see more strikes because strikes were happening even before this [movement]”, Parsi said. “They could end up reinforcing each other,” he said, adding that the strikes could add more pressure on the government.

How likely is the government to make concessions and what would those concessions look like?

Ending the protests is more likely to come through the use of brute force than concessions, analysts say.

The government has accused Western media of being behind the protests, hinting at foreign conspiracies. Analysts say this determines how they will be treated.

“If they see it as a security threat and not a matter of political expediency, then they are more likely to respond using the tools of their security apparatus,” Batmanghelidj said. “The government has far more capacity for repression than reform at this point.”

Vakil said that even if the authorities make concessions through minor reforms, the bigger question will be “how to get these young women to put their hijab back on.”

A face-saving outcome would be a rollback of the morality police, she said, adding that a complete scrapping of the hijab law is unlikely. A referendum allowing Iranians to vote on the hijab issue could also help quell the protests, she said, also casting doubt on what is happening.

When does government become vulnerable, and how close is it to that point?

Despite ten days of protests that have spread across the country as the death toll has risen, protests continue to be leaderless, with some of the protests’ loudest and most visible supporters living in exile as the government has Restrict Internet access at home.

“This is an indigenous Iranian movement,” Vakil said, “and it’s important to point out that ordinary Iranians inside the country are the mobilizers of what’s happening.”

A figurehead would be needed both to negotiate change with the government and to internally lead the movement itself, Batmanghelidj said.

The protests have a wide range of grievances, going beyond compulsory hijab and the brutality of the state security apparatus.

It also remains unclear whether there are members within the Iranian government who understand the issues at stake and are prepared to push for meaningful change within the existing power structure, Batmanghelidj added.

Note: This story will be updated with a video.

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