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Iran protests enter seventh day with growing demands for end to law on headscarves – The Irish Times


Demonstrators across Iran clashed with security forces on Friday for the seventh day to protest the death of a young woman arrested by morality police for failing to cover her head properly. Unrest erupted a week ago after the funeral of Mahsa Amini (22) in her hometown in Kurdistan and has spread to 80 cities and towns in 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces.

The authorities say she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated while in custody. This claim is dismissed by her family and angry Iranians demanding the abrogation of the law requiring women to wear headscarves outside their homes.

The demand amounts to a major challenge to a basic tenet of the 1979 Islamic Revolution which toppled the Shah and ushered in 43 years of rule by Shia clerics. The law on the hijab and female attire was adopted in 1979 during the reign of the regime’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and has been upheld by his successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (83), who has held this post for 30 years. Morality police have recently cracked down hard on violations.

To recapture the initiative from street protests, the authorities have followed their previous practice of organising pro-regime marches at Friday’s communal prayers. The latest staged events in a dozen cities, attended by conservatives and commandeered civil servants, were dubbed a “roar of people’s zeal against rioters”. Protesters were called “Israel’s soldiers” and “offenders of the Koran”.

Once again protesters stand accused of serving the enemies of Iran by the army. It stated: “These desperate actions are part of the evil strategy of the enemy to weaken the Islamic regime.” The army said it would “confront the enemies’ various plots in order to ensure security and peace for the people who are being unjustly assaulted”.

On Thursday the armed forces made a show of force with country-wide annual parades marking the anniversary of the beginning of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Staged events, accusations and threats did not deter earlier demonstrators who condemned steep increases in fuel prices or fraudulent presidential election results. During Bloody November of 2019, 1,500 were killed in four days of violent, destructive rioting. The 2009-2010 Green Revolution was the largest popular upheaval since nationwide unrest ushered in the clerical regime.

The regime fears a revival of either one or a combination of these existential mass uprisings. Faced with domestic unrest, the regime is unlikely to be affected by the US imposition of sanctions and travel bans on the morality police or other organs of repression since they have no financial holdings outside Iran and their members do not travel abroad.

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