Protests broke out in more than 80 cities in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, known by her Kurdish first surname Jina, following her arrest by the moral police under the so-called hijab law.
The images of the events published on social networks have become one of themain windows of what is happening on the ground and revealed what is different about this latest display of resistance inside Iran.
New York Times analyzed dozens of videos and spoke with experts who have followed the country’s protest movements to understand which ideas contain the often blurry and pixelated images of what is driving the demonstrations.
Attack on state symbols
Now in their third week, the protests continued despite dozens of people were killed.
Many of the videos appeared on social media during the first week of the protests, before the start of the Iranian government restrict Internet access in an attempt to silence dissent.
Multiple videos show a consistent theme of the protesters’ attacks structures and symbols representing the Iranian government, in some cases by setting fire to municipal structures.
In the northern city of Amol, protesters set fire to the governorate building complex and elsewhere removed the portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and founding leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah. Ruhollah Khomeini.
Reza H. Akbari, program manager for the Middle East and North Africa at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, said targeting state symbols is in part a response to the government’s lack of involvement with civil society. .
After a national uprising in 2009, the government undermined grassroots organizations, such as trade unions and student groups, which were channels through which citizens could discuss complaints and interact with lawmakers.
That segment of society, he said, “doesn’t have many options left but to resort to violent attacks on administrative and security buildings.”
He added that while the targeting of such buildings is not new, the widespread nature of the attacks It is remarkable.
Iranian security forces have a history of using violence and brutality to suppress dissent.
In many cases, the authorities shot demonstrators in the streets.
International amnesty at least that said 52 people have been killed since the protests began, noting that the death toll is likely to be much higher.
The videos show men in military uniforms using Kalashnikov-type assault rifles in protest areas, as well as the sound of sustained explosions of automatic rifles that disperse the crowd.
One of the latest examples appeared online Friday, from the protests in the southeastern city of Zahedan.
Automatic rifle shots are heard interrupting the prayers at a nearby local mosque, and a video shows several apparently wounded and bleeding men being treated outside.
In the past, the families of people killed by the security forces have been intimidated by the authorities to silence.
But this latest round of protests saw videos of funeral services uploaded online showing manifestations of public mourning, such as a woman cutting her hair. on a coffin
Narges Bajoghli, assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, noted that similar public mourning rituals for those killed in the 1979 Islamic revolution were key to sustaining the revolution’s success.
Now widely circulated online, these scenes help fuel anti-government sentiment, he said.
“They are saddened that their children have been senselessly murdered,” he said.
“And this is now circulating online among Iranians. And so it creates even more pain, more anger but also more solidarity ”.
women in charge
Across Iran, videos show that women are often at the forefront of recent demonstrations, attracting crowds of women and men to participate in symbolic acts of defiance.
One of these acts, the women who burn them hijabit became a dominant theme of the protests, representing both solidarity with Amini and the rejection of the compulsory use of the hijab, one of the most visible symbols of the repression of women under the Islamic Republic.
The large number of women leading the protests “in many of the videos we see, we also saw in 2009,” Bajoghli said, referring to the 2009 uprising in Iran.
“But the numbers here seem to be much higher.”
Akbari pointed out that videos showing women cutting their hair in public or on social media are unique to the ongoing demonstrations.
“It is a very powerful gesture of Iranian women who say almost with sarcasm and bitterness that:
‘If it’s the hair that’s bothering you, if it’s the hair you want, there you have it,’ “he said.
In addition to the now viral clips of burning the hijab and cutting the hair, the demo footage also reveals new ways in which common protest language has focused on women.
Bajoghli highlighted the adaptation of a well-known song, used in previous protest movements, from “Defend my brother” to “Defendand my sister“.
Another song, which originated from Kurdish female fighters and the Kurdish feminist movement, is now heard in videos of nearly every major protest across the country:
“Women. Life. Freedom.”
The videos also show women direct physical confrontations with the security forces, not only by being at the forefront of demonstrations, but also physically pushing the police when they challenge them.
“The great will to put your body into play and say, ‘I am coming for you and I will fight you with my own body’, I have not seen it,” said Bajoghli.
“And that, I think, is what makes it so difficult for the state to handle.”
The Times’ analysis of the videos posted on social media also reveals how widespread the ongoing protests are. geographically, ethnically and between the various social classes.
“We have not seen national protests at this level and with so many people that we would traditionally classify as middle class since 2009, ”Bajoghli said.
“And now we are seeing it again, but we are seeing it in a new generation that is doing it, and we are seeing it connecting with the smaller cities in the country and people who are not middle class.”
Images of some of the more religious have emerged conservative from the country, such as Qom and its southern islands, as well as from ethnic minority areas such as Oshnavieh, which is home to Kurdish-Iranians.
Experts also found it noteworthy that the nationwide protests were triggered by the death of a woman from the Kurdish ethnic minority, indicating a new solidarity between the different regions of the country.
In a video from the Iranian capital Tehran, the Kurdish feminist sings:
“Women, life, freedom” is said in its original Kurdish language and is not translated into Persian, the main language used in most of the country.
“Kurdish areas of the country have seen a lot of protests and there has been a lot of tension there,” Akbari said.
“But I think what’s powerful in this cycle is how the theme is a cross-cutting issue for all walks of life and all ethnic origins in the country.”
John Ismay contributed to the reporting.
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