Iranian regime cracks down on protests with all means, including sexual violence


Since the death of Masah Amini on September 16, the Iranian street has been angry and protested against the imposition of the veil on women. A month and a half after the start of the revolt, the authorities announced more than 300 dead. Justice condemns demonstrators with a vengeance, helping to remind the world of the horror of a political and judicial system under the authority of the clergy which many protesters, dissidents or apostates of the Islam. 

"I'm on death row, don't tell Mommy," are the words spoken by Mohammad Mehdi Karami to his father after hearing the sentence. Arrested at the end of November, condemned on December 4 by an expeditious justice, the 22-year-old young man was a former national karate champion, but there is no preferential regime for celebrities who challenge Iranian power.

Mohammad was executed on January 7 along with Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, they were accused of killing a paramilitary security guard. Efforts by Mohammad's parents to mobilize social media have been in vain, the Oslo-based NGO Human Rights in Iran holds a list of athletes tortured or sentenced to death which keeps getting longer.

More than 2 people had already been arrested, according to a report given at the end of November by the authorities. The demonstrators denounce the death of Mahsa Amini, who died three days after being arrested for non-respect of the dress code, namely the non-wearing of the hijab, while she was with her brother staying in Tehran. The 000-year-old student was beaten by the morality police according to witnesses.

The demonstrations first broke out in Iranian Kurdistan, his home province, but quickly spread thanks to social networks, Masha Amini becoming a symbol of freedom and mistrust.

The revolution that was to bring more rights to women

Since the 1979 revolution which saw the fall of the Shah of Iran, power has been controlled by the clerics. However, the Islamists were not the only ones to demonstrate to bring down the imperial power, the feminists and the communists had naively allied themselves with them.

Although the situation of women had improved under the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last shah, with the obtaining of the right to vote and the right to compete in an election, access to jobs which had hitherto been prohibited to them, in particular legal professions, or even the passage of marriageable age from 15 to 18 years. In 1968, for the first time, a woman, Farrokh-Rou Parsa, became minister, becoming head of education.

The corruption of power, the repression of political dissent, but also traditional male domination explain the junction of religious, communists and feminists. But in the wake of the overthrow of the Shah, the Islamists arrested the Communists, the women were gagged, and Farrokh-Rou Parsa was executed in 1980. The seizure of power by the ayatollahs led in particular to the obligation for women to wear the hijab.

A rejection of the veil more and more present for a decade

The veil is now imposed on more than 40 million Iranian women, from the age of seven. They must prepare well before leaving their homes, check that no locks are sticking out, because they can meet morality police officers at any time in the street.

Their clothes should not stick to the body or be too colorful. In 2019, Nasrin Soutoudeh, a female lawyer, was sentenced to 38 and a half years in prison and 148 lashes ; she had represented women in court who had challenged the compulsory wearing of the hijab and had herself removed hers during her stay in prison. These positions had notably earned her conviction for "incitement to corruption and prostitution", denounces Amnesty International.

Demonstrations against the veil have multiplied in recent years. On Facebook, while the social network is banned in the country, in particular with a campaign in 2014 on the "Stealth Freedoms of Women in Iran" page where women showed photos of themselves without a hijab. The page had attracted 150 likes in less than 000 days.

Sexual violence against demonstrators to scare them

Masah Amini's choice not to cover her head was one of many testimonies from women defying the morality police and helping to provide a face that women identify with.

If the representation is ferocious in order to dissuade the aspirants to freedom from demonstrating, the regime also resorts to sexual violence so that the women remain silent, on the occasion of the various demonstrations, as reported by Mary (“Fatemeh” from her first name in birth) Mohammadi who had to undress in front of officers who accused him of having hair sticking out of the hijab.

“During protests, security guards touch protesters inappropriately. They want to scare the women away,' says Mary Mohammedi.

The young Christian had been officially arrested on January 12, 2020 during demonstrations of sympathy following the destruction in flight of a Ukrainian civilian plane by Iran four days earlier. During the hearing, the judge had questioned her about her faith which, however, was not the subject of the trial. Mary Mohammadi had previously been sentenced to six months in prison for attending house church services.

Between persecution and small gestures to calm Christians

Among the demonstrators, Christians, a minority targeted by the government. Bianka Zaia, 38, spent more than a month in Evin prison, reserved for political prisoners, after being arrested at her home on November 26 for showing support for protesters on Instagram. The authorities would take the opportunity to arrest Christians. The young woman, also accused of "propaganda against the state through Christian proselytism", faces five years in prison.

However, the pardon granted in two days to two Christians detained in Evin prison by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, can be read as a desire to ease tensions by sending gestures to Christians, said an Iranian pastor last November at InfoChristian.

100 days after the death of Masah Amini, on December 26, the protests continue and they do not stop. By that date, more than 14 people had already been arrested, and Human Rights Iran spoke of more than 000 dead, including minors.

However, they reorganized : "Calm has settled in the big cities", according to political scientist Mahnaz Shirali. This specialist in Iran specifies that the demonstrators are now opting for sabotage actions in the big cities, while "the protest intensifies when one moves away from the capital Tehran, especially in regions deprived of everything".

Jean Sarpedon

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