On Saturday actress the Hengameh Ghaziani wrote on Instagram: " This may be my last post.” And it was – for now anyway. Within hours she was under arrest, charged with, among other offences, “communication with opposition and counter-revolutionary media.” Her crime: expressing solidarity with the thousands who are defying Iran’s brutal crackdown on two months of protests, following the death in custody of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. The protests have only grown in intensity.
“How many children, teenagers and young people have you killed – is it not enough with the bloodshed?” Ghaziani asked for the actors, artists, writers, sportsmen and women who are increasingly and bravely identifying themselves with the movement. Celebrity will offer them little protection against retribution.
So far, according to the UN, 300 protesters have died, over 60 of them children. As Iranian footballers in Qatar made their own silent protest, refusing to sing the national anthem, security forces were firing on demonstrators in the mainly Kurdish cities of Piranshahr and Javanrud, with a rights group reporting that seven died in the latter alone. And so far 15,000 have been arrested, many confined in secrecy, many tortured, cut off from families and friends. Four people have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests, charged with “enmity against God”.
The Islamic republic is struggling with one of the largest and longest-lasting waves of demonstrations in its history. Led by women, it has rallied young people across the country, to the slogan “Woman! Life! Freedom!” They have turned Mahsa Amani’s killing into an indictment of the system itself. And in Kurdish cities the movement is verging on insurrection – today’s response to a general strike call in the region will test the ability of the mullahs to govern.
This brutal crackdown on a whole generation, eloquent testimony to the complete absence of popular consent, could be the death rattle of a regime in its final throes. It may survive for a time, but sooner rather than later its time will be up.