– They have unimaginable courage – VG

ANGER: The girls point the finger at Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Photo: Twitter

Over the past week, teenage schoolgirls have led the rebellion against the Iranian regime. The researchers believe that the anger of the girls “shakes the very foundations of the Islamic Republic”.

The video clip is only 33 seconds long, but the content tells a huge story:

A girl in a Tehran classroom shows a photo of two elderly men:

Ruhollah Khomeini, who was the first Iranian leader after the country’s Islamist revolution in 1979, and the current 83-year-old leader Ali Khamenei, who has ruled Iran since 1989.

The girl then places the image on the floor before jumping on it. Then the girls take turns jumping on the picture, until it breaks. They then tear apart the remains of the image, before removing their hijabs, which they are legally required to wear.

The clip ends with the students holding hands and shouting the slogan: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, let’s stick together”.

This clip is just one of many that have stunned the world community in recent days.

The content of the video cannot be verified. Iran has closed the internet and does not allow the entry of independent journalists, neither international nor local. Leaked videos like this one, taken by the protesters and the students themselves, are the small glimpse the world now has of what is happening in Iran.

This is what you need to know about the demonstrations in Iran:

  • DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY: The Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini (22) he died on Friday 16 September after being arrested by the Iranian moral police for wearing the hijab “improperly”.
  • GREAT DEMONSTRATIONS: The death led to major demonstrations across Iran. Protesters – led by women – are fighting for women’s freedom and rights, against violence against women and political oppression. The slogan “Women, life, freedom” is actively used, but direct criticism of the country’s leadership is also evident. “Death to the dictator” the protesters shout.
  • MANY KILLED: According to Human Rights Watch, the Iranian authorities ruthlessly suppressed large-scale demonstrations with “excessive and lethal use of force”. The internet is limited to prevent communication within the country, but also abroad. Over 150 protesters are said to have been killed.
  • THIS IS WHAT THE LEADER OF IRAN SAYS: The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that the United States and the “Zionist regime”which he calls Israel, he recently planned the “riots” in Iran.

– I can’t find the courage

From Norway, senior researcher Gilda Seddighi from Vestlandsforskning is following developments closely.

She herself was born in Iran in 1982, three years after the Islamic revolution in the country. When she was 17, she went to Norway.

– These girls in the classrooms and on the streets in Iran now have unimaginable courage, they do things we never would have dared when we were their age, Seddighi tells VG.

The researcher says it is clear that girls are now leading the protest movement. Many of the girls were born after 2000, and it is their hopes and desires that, according to Seddighi, lead the way.

– At school we were taught to follow the regime and to shout “Death to the USA” in the demonstrations that the regime encouraged us to do. But now there is a completely new generation on the steps, which is not afraid of the regime. I simply cannot understand the courage they have. They go out into the street and scream without fear. I think their parents can’t understand how daring they dare, she says.

Seddighi’s mother is still in Iran’s capital, Tehran, and the two speak regularly. VG asks about her mother’s attitude towards the riot.

– The older generation is still afraid, because they have witnessed several riots and know how the authorities can repress with violence. This is why there is skepticism among the elderly. Even if a rebellion starts with a good idea, it can end very bloody, he says.

KILLED: Nika Shahkarami, 16, was killed during the demonstrations. Photo: Twitter

There have been a series of popular uprisings in Iran in recent decades, but each time the regime has finally regained control using very brutal violence.

The biggest uprising took place during the so-called “green movement” in 2009. At that time, the authorities brutally cracked down on mass protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Since then, waves of demonstrations have been suppressed in the same way. In 2019 it was over 300 protesters killed by the Iranian regime, during another round of popular opposition to the conservative government.

Other stories about the uprising in Iran:

– Very serious for the regime

Professor Marianne Hafnor Bøe of the University of Stavanger follows Iran closely. She fears that the use of violence may eventually also end this cycle of demonstrations.

At the same time, there are some novelties in this wave of protest, which distinguish it from the previous ones, he says:

– It has a very large symbolic effect when children and young people participate in this way and take a clear stand. We have seen major protests over the past few decades. There have also been demonstrations in universities with students, but now school pupils are also getting involved.

– What does this mean for the regime?

– This is very serious for the Iranian leadership. The very fact that the rebellion started with a female issue is very symbolic. The regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always believed in taking care of the Iranian woman and her role in the family. They pointed to it as a central point. Therefore, the demonstrations shake the foundations of the regime.

– Can female students be severely punished?

– It’s hard to say for now. Iranian regimes have been insanely brutal in the past.

Bøe believes that even though the rebellion has spread to a broader critique of the regime, there is a clear feminist core in the ongoing rebellion.

– It’s largely about feminism. The basic patriarchal structures protest.

The professor is keen to emphasize that these are not new ideas in Iran. Iranian female activists have intentionally worked on this for many decades and female activism has long roots in the country.

– It is misleading when the ongoing struggle is presented as ideas taken from the West, the United States and Europe. These are ideas promoted by Iranian women over the generations, she concludes.

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