Demonstrations fizzle out after Iran hangs protesters

TEHRAN, 17 Jan 2023:

Nationwide anti-government demonstrations raging in Iran since Mahsa Amini’s Sept 16 death in police custody have been quelled – after the execution of four Iranian protesters.

The “woman, life, freedom” chants are barely heard on the streets, while university students are no longer challenging the authorities.

Anti-government graffiti in Tehran has been blacked out and even the nightly routine of shouting “death to the dictator” from residential buildings has vanished.

Led by women and young people demanding more freedoms, the protests broke out following the death of 22-year-old Amini – after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code.

Over the weeks, rallies have spread to universities and later to schools, which the authorities have clamped down on.

But neither the “excessive and lethal” use of force that has left nearly 500 people dead and almost 20,000 arrested nor the internet shutdowns and the censoring of social media services were enough to put an end to the demonstrations.

Executions and death penalties seem to have done the trick.

The first execution of a protester was carried out on Dec 8, when 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari was hanged for injuring a member of Iran’s Basij militia with a knife.

Four days later, Majidreza Rahnavard was convicted of murdering two security officers and was publicly executed.

Following these two executions, street protests began to abate substantially.

Another two protesters, Mohammad Karami and Mohammad Hosseini, were executed on Jan 7 for the alleged killing of a Basij militant.

Another 13 have been sentenced to death for taking part in the protests, and at least 12 others are facing charges that could lead to capital punishment. Hundreds of people have been sentenced to jail terms, including soccer players, journalists and musicians.

Trials, convictions, and executions have been heavily condemned by Western governments and human rights organisations but to no avail.

Since the executions, street protests have almost disappeared. One of the lasting expressions of dissent is the widespread rejection of the obligatory headscarf by women in public.

But this act may also be stopped if authorities carry out the Attorney General’s call this month to “firmly punish” headscarf violations.

Many women, however, keep persisting.

“I am going to go without a hijab until the police stop me,” insisted a young woman who preferred not to be identified.

The young woman believes the protests will return to the streets because the discontent and resentment are still there. “We want a more modern and free Iran.”