Arnon Grunberg



On re-education – Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi in NYT:

‘The 22-year-old woman emerged from the Tehran subway, her dark hair covered with a black head scarf and the lines of her body obscured by loose clothing, when the capital city’s Guidance Patrol spotted her. They were members of Iran’s notorious morality police, enforcers of the conservative Islamic dress and behavior rules that have governed daily life for Iranians since the 1979 revolution, and newly energized under a hard-line president who took office last year.
By their standards, Mahsa Amini was improperly dressed, which could mean something as simple as a wisp of hair protruding from her head scarf. They put her in a van and drove her away to a detention center, where she was to undergo re-education. Three days later, on Sept. 16, she was dead.
Now, over eight days of rage, exhilaration and street battles, the most significant outpouring of anger with the ruling system in more than a decade, her name is everywhere. Iranian protesters in dozens of cities have chanted “women, life and freedom” and “death to the dictator,” rejecting the Iranian Republic’s theocratic rule by targeting one of its most fundamental and divisive symbols — the ailing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.’


‘Yet, for the first time since the founding of the Iranian Republic, the current uprising has united rich Iranians descending from high-rise apartments in northern Tehran with struggling bazaar vendors in its working-class south, and Kurds, Turks and other ethnic minorities with members of the Fars majority.’


‘The information that has leaked out, after many hours’ delay, also suggests an escalating crackdown. The authorities have moved to crush the demonstrations with violence, including live fire and tear gas. Dozens of people have died. The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Saturday that at least 17 journalists had been detained, including one of the first to report on Ms. Amini’s hospitalization, and arrests of activists are also mounting.
With Iran’s economy at a nadir and Ayatollah Khamenei in ill health, the government is likely to dig in rather than show any signs of weakness, analysts said. But violence will only buy time, they say, not long-term peace.’


‘“The reason the younger generation is taking this kind of risk is because they feel they have nothing to lose, they have no hope for the future,” said Ali Vaez, Iran director for the International Crisis Group, noting that protests were now a regular feature in Iran.
By continually blocking reforms, the country’s leadership has “created a situation where people no longer believe that the system is reformable,” he added. “I think people would be willing to tolerate a milder version of the Islamic Republic, but they’ve just entrenched their positions and have created this situation. It’s turned Iran into a tinderbox.” The head scarf, known as the hijab, is an especially inflammatory issue: The law requiring women to wear loose robes and cover their hair in public has been a pillar of the ruling theocracy and a lightning rod for reform-minded Iranians for decades, drawing one of the first protests against the ayatollahs after the 1979 revolution from women who did not want to be forced to cover up.’


‘The backlash to Ms. Amini’s death has been so strong that religiously conservative Iranians have spoken up alongside liberal ones. On social media, women who wear the hijab by choice have started solidarity campaigns questioning the harsh enforcement of the laws, and a prominent religious leader has said the morality police were only driving young women away from religion. Even tightly controlled state media outlets have acknowledged the issue, broadcasting at least three debates that featured reformist voices — a rarity.’


‘The internet outages have now returned. To help Iranians access the internet, the Biden administration on Friday authorized technology companies to offer secure platforms and services inside Iran without risk of violating United States sanctions that normally prevent doing business with Iran. It also greenlit the export of private satellite internet equipment, such as the Starlink service offered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to Iran.
But Iranians may face odds that are too great.
“At some stage, I think it’ll become impossible for them to control these movements,” Mr. Vaez said of the governing authorities. “But as of now, the system is bound to bring down its iron fist and try to nip this movement in the bud.”’

Read the article here.

It’s impossible to predict whether this is the implosion of the Ayatollahs and the end of the revolution that started in 1979, maybe the regime will copy its tactics, killing and torturing opponents, while offering some modest reforms.

The fact that state media outlets report about the issue, even organizing debates about it is a sign that some people inside the government acknowledge that only reform can save the ayatollahs.
But even with reform it might be too late for them.

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