September 20, 2023

The First Anniversary of the Mahsa Movement: a Look at the Events of the First Three Months

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Sep 13: Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Morality Police (Gashte Ershad) in Tehran. A few hours after her arrest, she was transferred to a Tehran hospital in a comatose state. Social media users responded strongly to the news.

Sep 16: Mahsa Amini died after falling into a coma. A heart attack was reported by the authorities. However, her family denied that she has had any prior health problems. Her father stated that her legs were bruised and that the police were responsible for her death. Ebrahim Raisi called for an investigation into Amini’s death. Social media and street protests erupted.

Sep 16: In the evening of the same day, the first protest rally was held in front of Kasra Hospital in Tehran. Security forces responded violently to the gathering, resulting in many arrests both at the time and in the days that followed.

Sep 16: Rasht was the site of a large protest rally. In response to Mahsa’s death, residents of Rasht organized two major protests on Bistoon Street and in front of Rasht’s City Hall. Security forces repressed and attacked the protestors. People chanted slogans such as “Death to the dictator” and removed their headscarves during the rally.

Sep 17: Mahsa Amini’s funeral procession in Saqqez, her birthplace in Kurdistan, sparked protests. Tear gas was fired. Protests moved to the city center. Women removed their headscarves and chanted “Death to the dictator.” The slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” was chanted for the first time. Iranians quickly adopted this slogan thanks to circulated protest videos.

Sep 18: Tehran became the focal point of dissent as the protests expanded. There were hundreds of people gathered around Tehran University. The Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence division arrested a group of women who gathered in front of the parliament and chanted, “Woman, Life, Freedom.” Some of them were released after a short period of time, while others were released after 24 hours. Some of those previously detained were arrested again the following day.

Sep 19: In Rasht, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Tehran, protests intensified. There was a clash between security forces and protesters. Almost all of these cities were completely disconnected from the internet and remained inaccessible for an extended period of time. The internet was notably slow even after it was restored.

Sep 21: Instagram and WhatsApp were restricted in the Islamic Republic. Eight deaths were confirmed by official sources as a result of these unrests.

Sep 22: There were widespread protests in Tehran and other cities. Meanwhile, the US sanctioned the Morality Police (Gashte Ershad) forces. In Tehran and several other cities, protesters set fire to police stations and vehicles. President Raisi declared that the ‘chaos’ is unacceptable. At the same time, internet speeds were significantly reduced and censorship was intensified.

Sep 24: Revolutionary Guards launched the first of several attacks on paramilitary groups’ bases in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq after accusing armed opponents of involvement in the unrest.

Sep 27: There are clashes between security forces and protesters in dozens of cities. Despite the crackdown, social media posts from inside Iran continue to depict protesters chanting “Women, Life, Freedom” and burning their headscarves. As protests spread across the country, dozens of cities were affected. Reports of protest-related deaths came from Amol, Babol, and Rasht, with the northern provinces quickly becoming the main centers of protest.

Sep 30: The Zahedan Massacre marks the deadliest day since the protests began. During a crackdown following Friday prayers in the southeast city of Zahedan, authorities deliberately fired into a crowd of protesters. The Friday Prayer Imam of Zahedan, Molavi Abdolhamid, later announced that the death toll had reached close to 90. As a result of the Zahedan massacre, the national death toll reached triple digits.

Oct 1: Security forces attacked Sharif University, which had been a focal point of protests since the early days, accompanied by plainclothes agents and student Basij (paramilitaries). More than 200 students were arrested. Professors who tried to help the students were also beaten. Tehranians blocked the streets leading to Sharif University that night. As soon as the Minister of Science arrived, the attacks stopped.

Oct 3: Following the death of Mahsa Amini, Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, finally spoke on the unrest, supporting the security forces. In a statement, he called the death of the “young girl” Amini a “bitter incident” which was used by Iran’s enemies for disturbance and chaos. Several Iranian cities ignored his warnings and chanted, “We don’t want the Islamic Republic, we don’t want it,” and “Death to Khamenei.” This marked the start of nightly chanting that continued until Nowruz in 1402 (2023).

Oct 7: Many names of those killed in the protests were published, including those of Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmaeilzadeh. The Islamic Republic’s authorities denied that Sarina Esmaeilzadeh and Nika Shakarami were murdered, instead alleging that they committed suicide. A forensic medical report was also issued indicating that Mahsa Amini died from an underlying illness rather than from injuries sustained during her arrest. These official statements – oftentimes belied by visual evidence – provoke further outrage.

Oct 10: Reports indicate that security forces shot and killed protesters in Sanandaj. Social media reports spread news of demonstrations held by workers from the Abadan oil refinery, the Kangan petrochemical plant, and the Bushehr petrochemical plant.

Oct 15: A fire in Evin Prison in Tehran, where many political prisoners and dual nationals are housed, shocked the world. Gunshots were reported by witnesses. According to the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic, eight people were killed during the unrest, but eyewitnesses report at least 20 deaths.

Oct 19: Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi, who appeared without a hijab during the Asian Rock Climbing Championship in South Korea, returned home to Tehran. In her statement, she stated that she had unintentionally participated in the competition without a hijab.

Oct 22: In the largest Iranian demonstration in Europe, an estimated 80,000 people demonstrated in Berlin, Germany against the Islamic Republic government and in solidarity with protesters inside Iran.

Oct 26: Mahsa Amini’s 40th-day memorial service was held at Ayichi cemetery in Saqqez. Iranian government security forces tried to prevent the ceremony and block the roads, but thousands gathered in this cemetery to protest. Security forces opened fire on mourners. Security agents held Mahsa’s father, mother, and brother under house arrest, and they were not allowed to leave their homes.

Separately, 15 people were killed in an attack on Shah Cheragh in Shiraz. It was claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS).

Oct 29: Hossein Salami, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards warns “End the unrest. This is the last day of the unrest, do not come to the streets anymore. What do you want from the lives of the people?” The protesters ignored the warning and took to the streets again.

Oct 31: According to Tasnim News, a publication close to the IRGC, around a thousand people will face public trials due to Tehran unrest. Canadian sanctions target six individuals and entities, including the Law Enforcement Force.

Nov 2: The United States and Albania requested an informal session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the suppression of protests in Iran. The session featured speeches by Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Nazanin Boniadi, an actress.

Nov 3: In Zahedan, a city where the majority of Muslims are Sunnis, a cleric was shot and killed in one of the Shia mosques. Videos posted on social media depicted a large number of protesters in Karaj. There was a flood of protesters on the Karaj highway where a member of the Basij, Rohollah Ajamian, was killed. Furthermore, protesters attacked and set fire to a police kiosk in Hasarak, Karaj. Another video shows a security forces vehicle being overturned and set ablaze. In Behesht Sakineh, Karaj, protests began after the 40th day commemoration ceremony for Hadis Najafi, one of the victims of the ongoing protests. In dozens of cities, including Rasht, Arak, Shiraz, Tehran, and others, protests continued on this day. One of the most significant suppressions took place in the south of Tehran. Once again, the west of Tehran experienced one of the toughest protest days.

November 9: Videos show that the Iranian water polo team did not sing the national anthem. The protesters view this act as the latest demonstration of support for the demonstrations by Iranian athletes. Iran’s Intelligence Minister warned Saudi Arabia that Tehran’s “strategic patience” cannot be guaranteed after the Revolutionary Guard instructed Riyadh to control its media, referring to satellite channel Iran International.

Nov 11: A large number of people gathered in Zahedan to protest the massacre on Sep 30. Molavi Abdolhamid, Zahedan’s Friday prayer leader, delivered a speech. In his speech, Abdulhamid stated that the majority of Iranians, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, have “objections” to the current situation, and the officials of the Islamic Republic should listen to the protesters. Additionally, he strongly criticized parliament representatives who had called for the execution of protesters, stating, “You should defend the rights of prisoners and the rights of the people… You write letters to people and impose harsh punishments. Are you worthy of representing the nation? Are other parliaments in the world carrying out similar actions?” Thousands gathered to protest the killings and demonstrate against repression.

Nov 14: Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, referred to the protests in Iran as a “revolution” and said that the suppression of the protests will make it more difficult for global powers to reach an agreement on the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The European Union intensifies its sanctions against Iranian officials and organizations. At least two Iranian Kurdish paramilitaries were killed when the Revolutionary Guards attacked bases in Iraq.

Nov 16: Protests at night resulted in the death of a number of people. The protests continued in several cities, and several protesters and members of the “security forces” were killed in Izeh and Isfahan. On this day, Kian Pirfalak, a nine-year-old child, was killed by a bullet fired by security forces, sparking widespread mourning. In addition, his father sustained serious injuries and was transported to a hospital in Tehran for treatment.

Nov 17: The Iranian Foreign Ministry accused Israel and Western intelligence services of plotting to partition Iran and ignite civil war, stating that “Iran is not Libya or Sudan.” A widespread reaction followed the murder of Kian Pirfalak, a child from Izeh.

Nov 20: Protests intensified in Kurdish-inhabited cities, and people in Mahabad and Bukan were brutally suppressed. Hengameh Ghaziani, an actress in film and television, was also arrested on this date. During his speech on state broadcasting, Iran’s national Soccer team captain Ehsan Haj Safi referred to “God of the Rainbow,” a phrase spoken by 9-year-old Pirfalak in a video circulated on social media after his death.

Nov 22: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported on this day that over 300 people have been killed in the ongoing protests in Iran, more than 40 of them children. The organization reports 14,000 arrests. After the first month of winter, the death toll reached over 500, and more than 80,000 detainees were held.

Nov 24: The UN condemned Iran’s human rights violations; a fact-finding committee was also created to investigate the events in Iran. The Islamic Republic refused to cooperate with this committee, calling it political.

Nov 26: Khamenei praised Basij forces involved in suppressing the protests. He says they sacrificed their lives to protect the people. HRANA news agency reports 448 protesters have died, including 63 children.

Dec 4: Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s Attorney General, announced the disbandment of the Guidance Patrol. Montazeri claims that The Guidance Patrol has no connection to the judiciary and was disbanded in the place where it was established.

Dec 8: One of the most sorrowful events of the protest movement was the first execution. On this day, Mohsen Shakari became the first protester to be executed by the Islamic Republic. The 23-year-old Mohsen Shakari was convicted of injuring a security officer with a knife and blocking a street.

Dec 12: Four days after the first execution, the Islamic Republic executed its second protester in Mashhad, resulting in Majid Reza Rahnavard’s execution on charges of ‘waging war against God’ and killing two Basij members.

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