Iranian women pull back the veil on hated regime West learned to tolerate

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By John J. Metzler

The women’s led uprising against Iran’s Islamic Republic continues. Under the inspiring slogan Woman, Life, Freedom, the movement confronting Teheran’s theocratic regime is widening and now had gained vital political support from key Western countries many of whom long rationalized their political and business links with Iran.

Nationwide protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, for not wearing the obligatory hijab head scarf properly, have since September morphed into a massive uprising among significant portions of the female population.

During this entire Autumn the streets of Iranian cities were not filled with a warm sun and the smells of roasted chestnuts and turnips but with the sting of teargas, the chants of demonstrators and the crackle of gunfire.

In a photo shared on Twitter, an unveiled woman stands on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way toward Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini’s hometown in Iran.

“The walls are covered in slogans calling for the death of the Supreme Leader and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and forty-three years of religious theocracy and tyranny,” adds an Iranian friend overseas who closely monitors events in his homeland.

Germany and Iceland have called for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Nov. 24 concerning the continuing demonstrations. The request backed by 42 countries, demands this landmark meeting covering the widening repression in Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran faces a major transformation if not an outright violent revolution as millions of people across this land push for social, civil and political rights long denied to them by the ruling Mullahs.  The hijab, the mandatory head cover for girls and women, remains the singular symbol of the simmering grievances which have smoldered in silence for decades and have now ignited into a massive still largely peaceful uprising against the arbitrary and mandatory religious controls of the theocratic regime.

Iran’s massive women-led protests seem to have reached a tipping point; girls and women throughout the Islamic Republic continue to push back against the hated hijab.

There’s a particular ironic poetic justice in France tilting towards the Iranian opposition; French President Emmanuel Macron held an unannounced meeting with four key Iranian women active in the democracy movement. This was the first time in 43 years that Iranian dissidents had an official meeting with a sitting French president.

President Macron called the Iranian demonstrations a revolution. “Something unprecedented is happening,” Macron said in a radio interview, “The grandchildren of the revolution are carrying out a revolution and are devouring it”.

During the late 1970’s during the revolt against the reformist Shah of Iran, the French government gave safe refuge to Ayatollah Khomeini, the radical religious zealot who led the revolt from exile.  Khomeini’s return from Paris to Teheran at the cusp of the revolution in 1979, sealed the fate of any long shot chance Iran had for a democratic government. This remains part of a tragic history.

Germany saw its Chancellor Olaf Scholz chide the Iranian regime with uncharacteristic clarity. He strongly chastised the Teheran regime for its brutal crackdown on protests and said Germany stood, “shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people”.

Scholz stated, “It is clear that the Iranian government is solely responsible for this spate of violence.”

So far more than 300 people have been killed and there have more than 14,000 arrests. Some of those arrested have been given the death sentence by Iran’s Revolutionary Courts.

A scathing new UN report “Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” adds, “it is estimated that at least 318 individuals, including 9 women, were executed from 1 January to 31 July 2022.” Arbitrary use of the death penalty presents a sharp increase over 2021 and predates the current demonstrations.

Moreover the “The Secretary-General is concerned at the increased repression of women and girls who peacefully protest compulsory hijab.” Among many recommendations the UN report calls to abolish the death penalty and “to release immediately all persons detained arbitrarily for legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and of association and right of peaceful assembly.”

Related: 2 months into protests, Iran’s rich and powerful IRGC has yet to act, November 8, 2022

Britain, Germany, France and the United States have pursued long elusive denuclearization deals with Iran in the hope of forestalling Teheran’s race to gain atomic weapons.  Reviving the moribund 2015 Deal between Iran and major world powers reached by the Obama Administration looks far less likely now given the Teheran regime’s treatment of its citizens.

But what happens next? Shall Iran’s clerical regime, sensing its fragility in facing its own citizens, now unleash the dreaded Revolutionary Guards and perhaps the regular military to launch a bloody crackdown?  Or shall Iran’s long-suffering people topple this wicked regime?

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]

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