Over a hundred have been killed, thousands injured, and numerous others detained across Iran, but for what?
Perhaps one could quote the famous song chanted by protesters under the title For Freedom.” The original video clip of the song by Shervin Haji Pur has since been deleted, the singer detained, and his fate unknown. Otherwise the paintings on the walls and t-shirts worn by protesters can be invoked, as they chant “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” which is Kurdish for Woman, Life, Freedom.
Iran’s vast size allows it to experience different seasons on the same day, with extreme heat in the south and cold weather in the north. The regional player is now engulfed in protests, regardless of where you place a pin on its map. Angry protesters, mainly composed of its youth and women, have taken to the street to resist the laws and regulations that have shaped their lives for over four decades since the establishment of the current regime in 1979.
On Sunday night, hundreds of students of Sharif University for Technology in Tehran were encircled by Iranian security forces, armed with tear gas and rubber and plastic bullets, shooting at the large crowd in every direction in sight. Beyond the campus, families of the students - and others - came to help, or perhaps came to halt the unfolding attack against students.
That was in Tehran, where the regime rules the country from, and where the majority are Shiite Persians. It is also the epicenter of the middle class, a group that have suffered tremendously under the self-imposed isolation of the country, a group that enjoys and favors relaxing in northern Tehran with women and men smoking hookahs, a scene that was granted for long is now a luxury. Life has become unbearable even for those who enjoyed prosperity for some time.
For Freedom has been turned into an Islamic version broadcast by state-controlled Channel Two, which summarizes the killings and beatings of protesters, as being conducted in the name of Ayatollah Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic republic.
Further south of the country, the city of Zahedan where Sunni Muslims are the majority, it witnessed the single deadliest day since the unrest unfolded. At least 40 people who attended the Friday prayer were killed, many of them shot by snipers on their head and chest, according to Mawlana Abdulhamid, the Friday preacher in Zahedan. He said snipers had already been stationed near the mosque, and once young people started their protests by throwing stones, the confrontation turned violent and fatal. Security forces opened fire on the congregation, even shooting those who tried to head home while seeking shelter. He called the massacre unprecedented, and called for holding those responsible accountable.
If the armed men included some Sunni people, Mr Abdulhamid claimed, perhaps they would have exercised some restraints. He was referring
He was referring to the sense of a lack of representation in the security forces, and in broader terms in the government institutions. He felt like the Sunnis have for long being ruled by Shiites, and perhaps almost never listened to.
The protest in Zahedan was part of the unrest that engulfed the country for three consecutive weeks, but it was also in response to claims of a 15-year-old girl being raped by a police commander.
Long before the latest wave of dissatisfaction, the situation has been bleak for years. The term sukhtbar, or cross-border porters who smuggle fuel into Pakistan from the Sunni areas, is now part of the dictionary of the Islamic republic as many of them end up being shot dead by the security forces.
In north-western parts of the country where Kurds live, they have their own term as well, kolbar; they, too, are cross-border porters who smuggle untaxed goods into Iran. They do so due to a lack of job opportunities, although some of them are university graduates.
The areas where the Sunnis and the Kurds live are in competition regarding who comes first in terms of unemployment and poverty. On top of that, the solution by the authorities has always been security-orientated by dealing with lack of jobs as a military threat.
The Iranian-regime claims the crowds of people protesting are receiving help and guidance from outside its borders, in Iraq, and even far beyond, by external powers like Israel and the United States.
Iran attacked the bases of the Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups in the Kurdistan Region last week, killing over a dozen people and injuring many more. They claimed these groups are behind the unrest in the western parts of the country, a claim refuted by the opposition parties. The result of the military strikes sparked more protests and unrest in Iran, not showing any signs of ease. While the protest began locally in Kurdish areas of Iran (Rojhelat), it soon spread to the rest of the country.
Zhina, as she is known by the Kurds, or Mahsa Amini elsewhere, has become the symbol of the freedoms lost, for lives not cherished, and everything that is wrong in Iran, a country that increasingly exports more violence and less goods and oil to the world.
There used to be a time when the campaign to resist the hijab was unpopular, and not leading to any progress. With Amini’s death, that practice is now prominent.
“For Freedom”, the song, mentions that the causes of the protests are linked to dancing in the middle of the road, kissing without fear, for the shame felt by a father who cannot put food on the table, for the students and their future, for the dogs, for the trees, for the Afghan refugees, and as the song reaches the end, it goes on to say, for Woman, Life, Freedom.
As the song almost reaches its end, the word freedom keeps repeating. It is for freedom, that the singer who is now detained, sings.