In Iran, school girls are demonstrating and defying repression

The young girls relieved their elders across the country using a variety of tactics, including shedding their veils and shouting slogans hostile to the conservative regime.

Iranian schoolgirls have dared to remove their headscarves and have organized rallies in recent days to protest the death of Mahsa Amini and oppose the deadly crackdown on protests that has been taking place in Iran for nearly three weeks. The 22-year-old Iranian Kurd died on September 16, three days after she was arrested by vice squads for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code, which requires women in particular to wear the veil. Anger erupted during his funeral and spread across the country. Protests in Iran are the largest since 2019 against rising fuel prices.

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“Death to the Dictator”

At least 92 people have been killed since September 16, according to Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights, while authorities put the death toll at around 60, including 12 members of the security forces. According to the authorities, more than a thousand people have been arrested and more than 620 released in Tehran province alone. Students rallied last weekend before being confronted by riot police, who cornered them in an underground car park at Tehran’s Sharif Technical University before arresting them. Since then, schoolgirls have taken power across the country, using a variety of tactics, including taking off their veils and shouting anti-conservative slogans.

In a video verified by AFP, young girls sing with their heads unveiled “Death to the Dictator”, referring to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on Monday at a school in Karaj, west of Tehran. Another group of girls sings “Woman, Life, Freedom” march down a street. “These are really extraordinary scenes. If these demonstrations are supposed to make a difference, it’s for the schoolgirls.” explained Esfandyar Batmanghelidj from the information and analysis site Bourse&Bazaar. Other videos posted online show schoolgirls leaving classrooms to march through various locations around the city in blitz protests to avoid detection. AFP could not independently verify these images.

But Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri on Wednesday acknowledged that young people were involved in the protests and denounced the influence of social media. “The fact that 16-year-olds are present at these events is caused by social networks, they are trapped”, he said, quoted by the ISNA agency. Education Minister Yousef Nouri said, quoted by the IRNA agency “The attacks of the enemy were aimed both at the universities and at the world of science and education”. Since the protests began, the Iranian regime has escalated its repression, arresting notorious supporters of the movement and severely restricting access to social media.

“Cruel Contempt for Life”

On Wednesday, the NGO Human Rights Watch claimed to have reviewed 16 videos posted on social media, which it found were displayed “Police and other security forces use excessive and lethal force against protesters” in Tehran and other cities. These images show law enforcement “Use firearms such as handguns or Kalashnikov assault rifles”, HRW said in a statement. This oppression “shows concerted government action to quash dissent in a cruel disregard for life”adds a researcher at the NGO, Tara Sepehri Far, who is quoted in the press release.

Meanwhile, Iranian judicial authorities on Wednesday denied any link between the death of a teenager and the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. Social networks had reported earlier in the day that teenager Nika Shahkarami had been killed by security forces during the demonstrations. Meanwhile, at least 63 people were killed last week in Zahedan in southeastern Iran, a predominantly Shia country, when protests were sparked by allegations that a local police leader raped a 15-year-old Sunni Baloch minority girl, according to Iran Human Rights.

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