Unrest continues in Iran, with experts warning that “cracks” are showing within the government under attack, AFP reports.
Despite the regime’s vicious crackdown, which has so far resulted in hundreds of killings, mass detentions and four executions, protests continue in Iran, albeit in different and more sporadic forms.
“Revolutionary processes usually involve phases of relative calm and others of turmoil,” said Ali Fathollah-Nejad, a political scientist at the American University of Beirut.
Although there has been a “relative drop” in the number of demonstrations, Iran is “at an impasse, neither the regime nor the protesters are able to impose themselves,” he continued, hinting at more unrest as the country’s economic crisis it gets worse.
The protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini on 16 September. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman died after being arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police on charges of not wearing the hijab properly.
The protests soon morphed into a broader challenge to Iran’s Islamic government, which is deeply unpopular with large swathes of the population.
“With the significant loss in value of the Iranian currency … one can expect demonstrations focused on the economy, which, as the past shows, could soon become political,” said Fathollah-Nejad.
Millions of Iranians are being pushed to the brink, with the country’s currency taking a major hit in recent months and years.
It fell to a record low of 370,000 Iranian rials to the US dollar in December.
“More Prudent Citizens”
In the face of violent oppression, strikes and other acts of resistance such as writing slogans or destroying government placards have increased, reports enqelab.info, which monitors protest activity.
“The national uprising is alive, even though the way people express their dissent has changed due to the deadly crackdown by the authorities during [autumn]”, enqelab said in a statement.
According to the Norwegian NGO Iran Human Rights, at least 481 people have been killed and at least 109 people are at risk of execution over the protests.
Four men have already been hanged.
Tehran authorities say members of their security forces have also died. They denounce that the protests are “violent riots” stirred up by foreign powers.
The UN also recorded around 14,000 arrests during the demonstration, which were initially against Islamic laws which made it compulsory for Iranian women to cover their hair with a headscarf.
He explained: Why is the hijab significant in Iranian society?
The protests have simply “diminished” because “citizens are more cautious,” says Roya Boroumand, co-founder of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, an Iranian human rights NGO.
“But they’re not finished,” he continued.
In January, a massive demonstration took place outside Rajaishar Jail in Karaj near Tehran amid rumors that two protesters would be executed. Both men are still alive.
The women-led movement “has changed the narrative that the Islamic Republic has been imposing on Iranians for decades, who they are and what they want,” Boroumand said.
However, there are few signs that Tehran is ready to make any significant concessions.
The repression could even intensify, with the appointment of Ahmad Reza Radan as head of the national police. He is a radical known for stifling the 2009 protests against the contested election.
“There are signs of cracks”
Tehran’s brutal crackdown is pushing it even further away from the West, icing any attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iranian authorities are also furious at the United Nations for launching a fact-finding mission into the crackdowns.
But there appear to be divisions within the authorities, while Tehran has not mobilized all its repressive paraphernalia, despite the bloodshed, according to observers.
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Iran this month executed former Deputy Defense Minister Alireza Akbari, who gained British citizenship after leaving office, for spying for the UK.
Cornelius Adebahr, a fellow non-resident at the Carnegie Europe research center, said it was an “unexpected verdict” that could point to a “power struggle” between elites over how to handle the protests.
Alireza Akbari was seen as close to Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani and other figures who have advocated for some reforms to address protesters’ grievances.
“There are signs of cracks” in power, Fathollah-Nejad added. This execution demonstrates that “distrust has taken root among those inside the regime”.
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