Time bomb: Anger rises over Iran protests hotspot – Bollyinside

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Growing up in a repressive system, Sharo, a 35-year-old college graduate, never thought she would hear the words of open rebellion aloud.

Now she herself chants slogans like “Death to the dictator!” with a fury she didn’t know she had as she joined protests calling for the overthrow of the country’s leaders.

Sharo said after three weeks of protests over the death of a young woman in the fearsome moral police detention center, anger against the authorities is only growing, despite bloody trials in which dozens of people were killed and hundreds detained.

“The situation here is tense and unstable,” she said, referring to the town of Sanandaj, in the Kurdish-majority neighborhood of the same name in northwestern Iran, one of the hot protests.

“We’re just waiting for something like a ticking time bomb to happen,” she said, speaking to The Associated Press via the Telegram messaging service.

The anti-government protests in Sanandaj, 500 kilometers from the capital, are a microcosm of leaderless protests that have rocked Iran.

Led mainly by women and young people, they have moved from spontaneous mass rallies in central areas to scattered protests in residential areas, schools and universities as activists try to avoid an increasingly brutal crackdown. .

Tensions rose again in Sanandaj on Saturday after civil rights activists said two protesters were shot dead and several injured after protests resumed.

Residents say there is a strong security presence in the town, with permanent patrols and security personnel stationed on the main streets.

The Associated Press spoke to six Sanandaj activists, who said repressive tactics, including beatings, arrests, the use of live ammunition and internet shutdowns, sometimes make it difficult to maintain momentum.

But protests continue, as do other forms of civil disobedience, such as trade strikes and drivers honking at security forces.

Activists in the city spoke out on condition that they would not reveal their full names, fearing reprisals from Iranian authorities. Their accounts have been confirmed by three human rights observers.

BURGERY Three weeks ago, news of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran’s Moral Police detention center spread quickly in her home province of Kurdistan, whose capital is Sanandaj.

The response was swift in an impoverished and historically marginalized region.

As the funeral was underway at Amini in the town of Saqqez on September 17, protesters were already filling Sanandaju’s main thoroughfare, activists said.

People of all ages were present and began chanting slogans that would be repeated in towns all over Iran: “Woman. life. Freedom. “The Amini family was under pressure from the government to quickly bury Mahsa before a critical mass of protesters formed,” said Afsanah, a 38-year-old clothing designer based in Saqqez.

She was at a funeral that day and followed the crowd from the cemetery to the town square.

Rozan, a 32-year-old housewife, did not know Amini personally. But when she learned that a young woman had died in the custody of Tehran’s moral police and had been arrested for breaking the Islamic Republic’s hijab rules, she felt compelled to take to the streets that that day.

“The same thing happened to me,” she said. In 2013, like Amini, she traveled to the capital with a friend when she was arrested by the morality police because her abaya, a loose dress which was part of the compulsory dress code, was too short.

She was taken to the same facility where Amini later died, had her fingerprints taken, and ordered to sign a statement of guilt.

“It could have been me,” she said. Since then, Różan, a former nurse, has been fired from her local health department for being too vocal about her views on women’s rights.

After the funeral, she saw the old woman take a step forward and quickly remove her scarf. “I felt inspired to do the same,” she said.

REPRESSION In the first three days after the funeral, protesters were pulled out of a protest during the sentencing in Sanandaj. At the end of the week, the arrests targeted famous activists and protest organizers.

Dunya, a lawyer, said she belonged to a small group of women’s rights activists who helped organize the protests. They also asked shopkeepers to heed calls for a trade strike along the city’s main streets.

“Almost all of the women in our group are now in jail,” she said.

Lack of internet access has made it difficult for protesters to communicate with each other in cities and with the outside world.

“We woke up in the morning and had no idea what was going on,” says college graduate Sharo. The internet came back sporadically, often late at night or during working hours, but quickly cut off in the late afternoon when many people streamed in to protest.

The heavy presence of security forces also prevented mass gatherings.

“There are patrols on almost every street and they separate the groups, even if there are only two or three people walking down the street,” Sharo said.

During the protest, security forces fired shotguns and tear gas into the crowd, forcing many people to flee. Security guards on motorbikes were also charging into the crowd, trying to distract them.

All activists interviewed said they had seen or heard live ammunition. Iranian authorities have so far denied this, blaming separatist groups in cases where the use of live fire has been tested.

Two protesters killed in Sanandaj on Saturday were killed by live ammunition, according to the French Kurdistan Human Rights Network.

Protesters say fear is a close companion. The injured were often reluctant to use ambulances or hospitals, fearing arrest. Activists also suspected government informants of trying to blend in with the crowd.

But the acts of resistance continue.

“Rest assured, the protests are not over yet,” Sharo said. “People are angry, they’re talking to the police in a way I’ve never seen before.” Disobedience Anger runs deep. In Sanandaj, a combination of three factors has made the city a breeding ground for protests – a history of Kurdish resistance, growing poverty and a long history of women’s rights activism.

However, Tara Sepehri Fars, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, says the protests are not defined by ethnic or regional borders, even though they were sparked massively in the Kurdish area. “It was very special in that sense,” she said.

In recent years, there have been waves of protests in Iran, the largest of which, in 2009, brought crowds to the streets after what protesters saw as a stolen election.

However, the constant opposition and demands for regime change during the current wave seem to pose the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic in years.

Like most Iranians, Sanandaj has suffered from US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic which have devastated the economy and boosted inflation.

Far from the capital, on the outskirts of the country, most Kurdish residents are greeted with suspicion by the regime.

During the third week, with the opening of universities and schools, students began to organize small rallies and joined the movement.

There were videos on social media showing students mocking school teachers, schoolgirls taking off their headscarves in the street and chanting: “One by one they will kill us if we don’t stand together”. One student said he planned to boycott classes altogether.

Afsanah, a clothing designer, said she loves wearing a headscarf. “But I protest because it was never my choice.” Her parents, fearing for her safety, urged her to stay home. But she disobeyed them, claiming she was going to work in the morning just to look for protest rallies in the city.

“I’m angry and I’m not scared – we just need that feeling to spill out onto the streets,” she said.

(This story has not been edited by our team of editors and was generated from the stream.)

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