Teenage girls take up the torch of protest in Iran: can they go further than their mothers?

A group of girls from a secondary school in Iran show their repudiation of the portrait of Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei for the imposition of wearing a scarf that covers their heads and hair. (twitter)

Unthinkable. A group of high school girls, no older than 15, some with long Persian braids, take a photo in their classroom showing the middle finger to the photo of the supreme leaders of the Iranian regime: Khomeini and Khamenei. And they dare to upload it to social networks. They turn into the iconic image of this new wave of protest against the regime which has been three weeks.

The photo accompanies dozens of other photos and videos of secondary school students – segregated, therefore, only women – who continue to take to the streets since Mahsa Amino, 19, was killed by police after being arrested for having the compulsory headscarf (hijab)) which should cover the head of all women. And they continue to have even more reason to protest. The parents of Nika Shahkarami, who would have turned 17 this Sunday, they found his body in a police morgue. She had been missing since she dared to take off her hijab with a group of her friends from her school. from mid september There have already been at least 150 deaths, hundreds of injuries and more than 2,000 young people in prison waiting sentence. They are likely to get up to five years in prison.

The girls are at the forefront of the protests this time, but the outrage is widespread. Public anger is so widespread that even a hard-line, pro-regime newspaper like Jomhuri Eslami has openly challenged the authorities, accusing them of denying their own failings and unpopularity. “Neither foreign enemies nor internal opposition can bring cities into a state of unrest without a background of discontent,” the editorial said. “Denial of this fact will not help.” It was a direct response to the “apology” made by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who acknowledged that there may have been an “excess” on the part of the police in the case of Mahsa Amino, but that the protests were not legitimate because are being armed by foreign agents of Israel and the United States.

The government is trying to scare Iranian celebrities and journalists into silence online, and force protesters to go home quietly, but so far they have failed. On Wednesday, students protested against the mass arrests in Tehran, holding a demonstration in the conservative city of Mashhad. “Sharif University has become a jail! Evin prison (the prison where political prisoners go) became a university!” they shouted. Tehran’s historic Sharif Technological University was the battleground over the weekend, with brutal beatings, tear gas and many arrested.

The protests continue to be reproduced in almost all medium and large cities in the country. In Karaj, female students from various colleges joined groups of college girls and marched through the streets without their hijabs, shouting “Women. Life. Freedom!”. Daily marches are also held in Sanandaj, in the Kurdish area, where Mahda Amino was from. A work done by the BBC Farsi service shows that in the last week there was at least one major demonstration per day in each city with more than 100,000 inhabitants. And many remember the first months after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 when women who supported institutional change took to the streets to protest against the impositions of the ayatollahs. At that time they also burned the hijabs in popular bonfires. The more conservative Shia wing ended up crushing the leftists and liberals and came to power.

And like then, the revolutionary guards want to crush the youth cultural rebellion that is taking place right now. On Wednesday The singer Shervin Hajipour was arrested, whose song “For the Sake of” (for the sake of) became an anthem of these protests. The girls sing loudly the chorus that says: “For my sister, for your sister, for our sisters.” Hajipour was detained at a police station for two nights, released on bail, and a trial is pending.


Shervin Hajipoor, Iranian singer arrested by the police because of his most recent post on Instagram which had 40 million views; it was an original song about the protest that is happening in Iran right now Translated by: @Navid Kh #mahsaamini #Iran #iranprotests2022 #مهسا_امینی

♬ original sound – kotan

The repression has already been launched in full force. The students of a school in Tehran they managed to film the intelligence services agent who was taking photos of them to each of those who participated in the protest and who cut their hair as a sign of rebellion against the regime. Right now, the entire repressive apparatus of the State, which is enormous, is working to arrest, beat and punish with jail each of the leaders of this rebellion. The same thing that has already happened on all the occasions when people took to the streets in Iran to demonstrate their rejection of the regime.

In July 1999, demonstrations by Tehran University students, sparked by the closure of a reformist newspaper linked to then-President Mohammad Khatami, they turned the capital into a battlefield. The security services went through the student residences looking for the ringleaders and, after six days, the protests were crushed. Many of the students remained in prison for up to six years, and their demands for freedom of the press and free selection of candidates for Parliament were ignored.

The women’s rights protests of 2005 and 2006, including the campaign of “One million signatures in support of legal equality”, ended in failure after the arrest of more than 50 of its promoters and the departure of many of them into exile.

Again, in 2009, after the fraud in the presidential elections, the “Green Movement” spontaneously took to the streets. There were more than three million people who marched under the slogan “where is my vote?”. The repression was brutal. It was symbolized by the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, a music student, who was shot by a sniper and spent several minutes dying in the street. The video of what happened shook the consciences of the world when it spread through social networks. It took the regime six months to finish crushing the revolt. But he succeeded after shedding a lot of blood. Hundreds were dead. The leaders were forced to make videotaped confessions that were broadcast on state television. They had to say that they had been manipulated by the United States.

In 2019, the workers and the poorest came out for the first time, who are the majority among those who support the regime, to protest the serious economic situation. They tripled their gasoline prices in one night and had cut their subsidies. The repression was once again terrible. The paramilitaries were deployed and left more than 1,500 dead.

Protesters escaping regime paramilitaries who fire on the crowd on a Tehran avenue.  VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS.
Protesters escaping regime paramilitaries who fire on the crowd on a Tehran avenue. VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS. (OBTAINED BY REUTERS/)

And like on all those occasions, now the basishis, the paramilitary youth organizations, also came out, and the selective arrests of those who could constitute a critical mass began. even, already Influential journalists were arrested, such as the editorial director of the Shargh newspaper and the reporter who broke the news of Amini’s arrest. Even the UK ambassador in Tehran was urgently summoned by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. They accuse him of “encourage protest”. He was told that if any information written by a British official appears on the networks, he will be expelled.

Against this background, the question hovering over Iran and all political scientists is simple: why is this time going to be different?

In principle, never before has the regime had to deal with female adolescents. It is a much more “sensitive” subject from his Shia macho point of view than that of “angry voters” or “protesters against the increase in the cost of living”. They don’t really know how to deal with a group of 14, 15, 16-year-old girls who just want to be allowed to grow up without having to cover themselves from head to toe.. Yes, we know, and so do they, that it is about something broader and deeper, but the one who is going to suppress has to beat up a girl from school who does not want to wear the obligatory headscarf anymore.

And despite the fact that for Western culture wearing the hijab appears as a “minor element” of life, for the macho conception and the Shiite Muslim “virtue”, it is fundamental. The hijab has become a central symbol of revolutionary morality for the regime. Ayatollah Khomeni, the first Supreme Leader of Iran, once said: “If the Islamic revolution must have no other result than the veiling of women, then that is enough for the revolution itself.” The girls know where they are hitting. If the hijab falls, it falls much more than a veil.

There are also some concepts behind the girls that Shia clerics never had to face before. Is about young people who were born in the middle of the scientific and technological revolution and are permanently connected to a global reality that has little or nothing to do with what they want to impose. They know no borders or ideological barriers. They want to be like all the other girls in the world that they see on the networks. They have the same aspirations and their same idols.

And finally, this movement it has much more to do with “Mee too” or “Black Lives Matter” than with a traditional political protest like the ones the Iranian regime has faced so far. What can they do against a teenage girl who cuts her hair in front of her classmates as a sign of rejection of religious and social impositions? What can they accuse her of? This is what extraordinarily baffles the regime.

This note is part of a broader coverage on the teenage protests in Iran that you can find in my Global newsletter every week. Subscribe on this page: https://www.infobae.com/newsletters/


Protests continue in Iran: young students defy the repression of the Islamic regime