Iranian women walk in the street, some wearing a headscarf in Tehran, Iran, 10 August 2023. EFE/EPA/FILE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Iran intensifies crackdown ahead of Mahsa Amini’s death anniversary

By Jaime Leon

Tehran, Sep 12 (EFE).– Iran has intensified its crackdown on the populace ahead of the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death by detaining dissidents, activists and family members of protesters killed in last year’s protests to prevent further expressions of discontent against the Islamic Republic.

Amini, 22, died on Sep. 16, 2022 while under detention by the Iranian moral police for not wearing the obligatory Islamic veil correctly.

The incident sparked long, widespread protests across the country, with the slogan “woman, life, freedom” that for months called for the end of the Islamic Republic.

The authorities responded with severe repression that caused 500 deaths, while thousands of people were arrested and seven protesters were executed, one of them in public.

In recent weeks, Iranian authorities have stepped up warnings and repressive measures in anticipation of fresh demonstrations with more demands for freedoms as the first anniversary of Amini’s death approaches.

“This time we will deal with these people more decisively,” warned deputy judiciary head Sadegh Rahimi, describing demonstrators as those who “take to the streets with any excuse.”

The senior judicial official also warned the 22,000 protesters who were pardoned after being detained in last year’s protests that they will face “double” the punishment if they hit the streets again.

However, the authorities have done much more than just issuing warnings.

Several family members of those killed in the demonstrations have been arbitrarily detained, peaceful gatherings at the sites where the graves are located have been restricted, and headstones have been destroyed, according to the nonprofit Amnesty International.

The most notorious case is that of Amini’s uncle, Safa Aeli, who was arrested last week from his home in Saqez, in Iranian Kurdistan, and whose whereabouts are unknown, according to activists.

A group of parents of protesters killed last year denounced that the security authorities have been pressuring them to remain silent ahead of the anniversary.

“We will resist until the end,” announced many of these families in a statement on social media.

Twelve activists – eleven women’s rights advocates and one political activist – have also been arrested in an attempt to repress popular discontent with impunity and rights violations, according to the nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

Among the cases that have aroused the most indignation among Iranians is that of singer Mehdi Yarrahi, arrested in late August for releasing a song calling on women to remove their veil, mandatory in public in the Islamic country.

The song “Roosarit,” which means “your veil” in Persian, challenges the customs and morals of an Islamic society, according to the country’s judicial authorities.

In another blow to artists, Iran’s film authorities have banned actresses who have appeared in public without the Islamic veil or otherwise violated the country’s strict dress code.

The punishment comes as a dissuasive measure against celebrities lending support to the protests, like they did last year.

Universities have also witnessed the dismissal of several professors from prestigious institutions, which many have described as politically motivated.

One such example is the dismissal of Ali Sharifi Zarchi, a professor of Artificial Intelligence at the country’s most prestigious educational center, the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, supposedly for supporting the protests.

With just a few days from the anniversary, the situation on the streets is one of tense calm with hardly any acts of defiance, but with numerous calls for protest.

The biggest gesture of discontent and disobedience is the refusal of many women to cover their hair with a veil, despite measures such as seizing of vehicles and denial of services in public offices, among other things.

Almost a year since Amini’s death, the authorities have still failed to successfully impose the use of the hijab, or the veil, like before. EFE