On 16 September 2022, a new wave of anti-regime protests broke out in Iran. No one expected the uprising to last more than three weeks, despite the brutal repression.
So far, more than 400 protesters have been shot dead by the regime's repressive forces. Hundreds more protesters have been injured and more than 20,000 are believed to have been arrested so far.
The spark that ignited the fire was the arrest and killing of young Mahsa Amini by the Morality Police. This tragedy led to a wave of women taking to the streets without headscarves, a symbol of the mullahs' religious coercion.
Although considered as such, this uprising is neither a feminist nor an anti-religious movement. The number of men joining in, the more than 170 cities involved, the longevity of its duration and the main slogans calling for a regime change make it clear that it is a revolution against religious power, not against religion: even many women wearing headscarves are taking part.
Unlike in 2009, 2017 and 2019, the regime has not managed to extinguish the movement. There are several reasons for this: people are no longer afraid and are facing the regime's brutal repression. In dozens of cases, people detained by the police have been released because of counter-attacks by the youth. Several members of the Basij (militias affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or the Ministry of Intelligence) have been killed in these clashes.
On the other hand, there is the organisational element. Thousands of resistance units, belonging to the People's Mujahedin Organisation (PMOI), play an important role on the ground.
Organised since 2014, these units, although affiliated to a resistance organisation, are ordinary citizens with normal links to their environment, in the workplace, offices, hospitals and society at large. In recent years, these units have gradually established themselves throughout the country and have started their activities by writing slogans, distributing Iranian Resistance messages or putting up posters in public places, among other things.
This growing network of resistance is one of the differences between the 2022 uprising and previous ones.
But there are other differences: in 2009, the spark was a "stolen vote", so the right to express oneself was violated. In 2017 it was financial corruption and funds stolen by the regime. And in 2019 it was rising oil prices.
This time, in 2022, it is about the fundamental freedom to dress, behave and express oneself, to live as one wishes. This allowed the participation of all social strata and even intellectuals from all sides.
Developments elsewhere were also influential.
If the international community has recognised the Ukrainian people's right to defend themselves against Russian occupation, why would it deny the Iranian people their right to defend themselves against those who usurp their freedoms?
Hamid Enayat is an Iranian analyst based in Europe, human rights activist and opponent of his country's regime. He discusses the current uprising in Iran.
Article published in Le Télegramme