Protests in Iran span the flanks - GulfToday

Protests in Iran span the flanks


The Iranian government has been tough, firm and even ruthless in putting down the protests.

When Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the moral police in Tehran, the protests broke out in a huge way in all the major cities and towns and lasted weeks. There was a strong reprisal from the government and 126 protesters died while many more agitators were injured in police action. More than two months later, the protests continue in the Kurdistan province in the northwest of Iran, the place where Amini came from. And now they have erupted in south-east province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

There is an apparent bonding of victimhood between these two far-flung provinces, where the Kurds on one hand, and the Baluchis at the other end, feel that they have to fight the central government and central leadership. The Iranian government has been tough, firm and even ruthless in putting down the protests, with the express intent of bringing the protesters to trial.

The Iranian government is of the view that these protests are manipulated by outside powers, especially the United States and Israel. There is no doubt that Israel has been unapologetically hostile to Iran’s government of Shia clerics even as Iran has been relentlessly hostile to Israel. The United States has been veering between total opposition to partial conciliation.

That is why, American president Barack Obama had worked out a comprehensive nuclear deal, which included other European powers like Germany, France, Britain, as well as Russia and China. The deal allowed Iran access to western markets on condition that Iran restricted its uranium-enrichment programme which did not allow Iran to attain nuclear weapon-making capability. But when Donald Trump became president he scrapped the deal. It has been revived under President Joe Biden. But the revival of the deal is not yet a done deal.

Meanwhile, the death of Amini and the outbreak of nationwide protests has changed the general scenario. The nuclear deal is struck for other reasons, but Iran’s relations with the West went into an undeclared cold war because of the protests, and the West has got a handle to point an accusing finger at Tehran for violation of human rights. The United Nations too has criticised the death of Amini in custody, the clamp down on the protesters and the dress code imposed on women as violations of human rights. The Iranian government naturally resents what it terms as outside interference.

The protests have not been confined to Iran. They have spilled over among the World Cup football fans. And among the spectators there is a confrontation between pro-protesters group and the pro-government group. It is the case that most of the Iranian spectators who are supporting the protestors in Iran do not live in Iran.

The Iranian authorities may have to concede the fact that there is unrest within the country, especially among the women and youth, and that there is a need for loosening the strict codes which might break the patience of the people. And then there is the anger and unhappiness with the government in Kurdistan, in Sistan-Baluchistan. The death of Amini has become a good pretext for leaders in these two provinces to air their other grievances. It has to be noted that these provinces are mainly dominated by Sunni population, and Iran remains a strictly Shia country. Of course, over the years, Iran has managed the culturally complex country with its regional variations. There is then need for dialogue with the discontented provinces, their peoples and their leaders in place of use of force.


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