Iran: will the protests bring change?

The "hijab protests" against morality laws which are particularly restrictive for women, and which were triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, have united women and men, Persians, minorities and students in a revolt against the mullahs' rule in Iran. Now workers in the key oil sector are joining the struggle. The regime continues its brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

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Evrensel (TR) /

Industrial action added to the mix

For Evrensel, the participation of oil industry workers in the protests marks the start of a new phase in the struggle:

“In Iran, the oil and petrochemical industry are the dominant industrial sectors. The fact that workers in these industries have also formed factory councils with the slogan 'Death to the dictator' increases the likelihood that the protests will now take on an industrial action dimension. At the same time this puts economic pressure on the mullahs' regime. Given the important role that oil workers played in the overthrow of the Shah, it would not be wrong to say that the mullah regime is now gripped by fear.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Take the knee in solidarity

The regime's opponents deserve all the support they can get, demands De Standaard:

“The West must not hesitate now. Solidarity must go further than well-intentioned 'how-can-I-make-this-about-me' actions in which politicians cut off a lock of their hair. Targeted sanctions that really hurt the Iranian leaders are needed. Only through sustained international pressure can Iran become a country where women have equal rights and the right to decide for themselves whether to wear the headscarf. The protest is comparable to the Black Lives Matter movement. If we rightly take the knee for the black struggle we must also make a similar gesture of solidarity with the Iranian people.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

The seed has been planted

The protest movement will prevail in the end, The Irish Times is convinced:

“Increasingly desperate, the authorities shut all schools and colleges in Iranian Kurdistan while police rounded up and arrested students inside school premises. Mullahs warned that punishment for those participating in demonstrations would be exemplary. ...The regime knows no other way to maintain itself, and it may indeed succeed one more time in temporarily extinguishing the flame of revolt. But a seed has been planted. Their time will come.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

On the path to becoming a nuclear power

Jyllands-Posten, on the other hand, fears the regime won't be moved by the protests:

“The 2015 agreement that was supposed to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb was cancelled by the US under President Trump, so right now Iran has free rein to become a nuclear power. The prospect of this happening is utterly terrifying, also because it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia in particular will do everything it can to catch up with its main rival. As courageous as the current protests are, they do not pose a threat to the regime itself here and now. It clings ironclad to power and knows no restraint.”

NZZ am Sonntag (CH) /

System is based on misogyny

The protests are targeting the Islamist regime at its very core, writes Islamism expert Saïda Keller-Messahli in the NZZ am Sonntag:

“The youth are demanding the basic individual freedoms one might expect in the modern era. ... The religious state of Iran has made the headscarf for women the main instrument of its rule. The compulsory headscarf has become the most visible symbol of its reign of terror. And misogyny forms the backbone of Islamist ideology. Domination of the female body is at its heart. To attack the compulsory headscarf in Iran is therefore to attack a central instrument of the mullah regime.” (ES) /

Individual freedom over coercion and bans

It is not only in Iran that paternalism in matters of the veil prevails, anthropologist Karima Ziali reminds readers in

“The example of Iran unfortunately does not prompt us to reflect on how close compulsory wearing of the veil and banning the veil are to each other, or that the freedom of the individual (to choose, to make mistakes, to decide, to err...) is paramount. A mature society overcomes commands and prohibitions. ... Mahsa Amini's brutal death is a painful opportunity to focus on the polarisation in the discourses surrounding a piece of cloth. ... This is the game of eternal paternalism from which one can only emancipate oneself by taking responsibility for one's actions.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Hope also for ethnic minorities

The women's struggle has already spread to other oppressed communities, trade unionist Jamshid Pouranpir writes in Le Temps:

“The streets are occupied by the new wave of feminism in Iran, which used to be a bastion of crass misogyny. The rise of Kurdish movements is not a pleasing development for the biggest chauvinists in Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. For the ideologists of the 'revolution', a movement without a leader or an organisation is suspect . ... The double oppression suffered by the Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Iran confronts the idea of a bygone Persian empire with its own demons. Jina Amini [the Kurdish name of Mahsa Amini] was sacrificed, her hair in the wind was the spark that set the beard of the Ayatollahs on fire.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Human rights and constraints of realpolitik

To what extent the brutal crackdown will lead to sanctions depends on other issues entirely, Milliyet concludes:

“The West has to make a decision here. The US has imposed a series of sanctions, which it has gradually increased. As long as the nuclear negotiations are ongoing, however, it can't exert much pressure. The effects of the war between Russia and Ukraine should also be taken into account. The winter months are looming and Europe could experience an energy crisis. Given the close relations between Iran and Russia, the two countries may even strengthen their strategic partnership.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Stand on their side

The revolt of Iranian women deserves the support of neighbouring Turkey, Hürriyet notes:

“Recent events have reaffirmed the image of a ruthless theocratic regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which raises its hand against women and murders them. ... It is the most natural and indispensable right of these people in our neighbouring country to enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms and be able to live their lives without repression. In this respect their problem is also our problem. It is our duty to show Iranian women that we stand with them in their resistance.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Time for a feminist foreign policy

It's time the German government took its coalition agreement seriously, says Die Welt:

“Sanctions have never been Germany's thing anyway. 'Change through trade' is the motto here, which proved successful in the Cold War. ... A feminist foreign policy could be a counterdraft to the 'change through trade' policy, which has proven to be an illusion. ... The point is: you just have to get on with it. And there can be no more suitable practical test for it than the admirable protest of the Iranians over the murder of Mahsa Amini. A feminist foreign policy that does not stand by the women fighting for their freedom and does not know how to counter the mullahs with more than the obligatory 'concerns' would be a lie.”

Trouw (NL) /

Little prospect of success

The women's protests in Iran are very courageous but they will not lead to a change of regime, Trouw fears:

“Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the regime will see reason. President Ebrahim Raisi wields almost absolute power and can count on the support of the army and the large rural population, which is generally more conservative than the city dwellers. Whether even more sanctions against Iran will help is unfortunately questionable. They would also hamper the painfully prolonged negotiations aimed at a 'nuclear deal'.”

Le Point (FR) /

Unrestrained totalitarianism

The latest developments reveal the true nature of the regime, security expert Éric Delbecque stresses in Le Point:

“In this rebellion where courageous, freedom-loving women are burning their veils, we witness the sad spectacle of the fundamentally totalitarian nature of the Islamist project. It's all there, starting with state violence. In Iran it is exposing itself without restraint. ... This programme of comprehensive domination and barbaric re-education does not balk at banning access to communication tools for citizens who wish to emancipate themselves.”

Politiken (DK) /

Bring those responsible for killings to book

Politiken demands that those responsible for the acts of violence be named:

“It is extremely alarming that the ruling clergy has no better plan than to subjugate its compatriots with censorship, stringent political control, suppression of minorities and the brutal persecution of its critics. ... The UN Human Rights Council must launch a full investigation into responsibilities - both for the specific murder last week and those politically responsible for the ruthless murderous crackdown now unfolding.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Iran must address women's rights and freedoms

The protests pose fundamental questions about the relationship between the state and the people, public opinion researcher İhsan Aktaş writes in the Daily Sabah:

“Intervention and suppression of nation-states on human identity with the claim of creating a singular identity is a fundamental problem of nation-states. When a nation-state has a 'national' religion in addition, this can indeed turn into a human tragedy. The Iranian people experience nation-state oppression and the influence of the religious state together. ... In my opinion, shortly, Iran will discuss in depth the status of women and the freedom of religion and conscience.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Germany could exert major pressure

The women's struggle stands little chance of success without external help, the Berliner Zeitung stresses:

“Germany is Iran's most important trading partner within the EU. So in theory, Scholz and Baerbock have significant tools at their disposal for improving the situation of women in Iran. The fact that they are not using them indicates that there are interests at play here that outweigh human rights. For example, the revival of the nuclear agreement. Just last month, the EU put forward a compromise proposal aimed at saving it. Iran has yet to respond. It's quite possible that until it does, the EU will avoid getting on the wrong side of the rulers in Tehran.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Tensions boiling below the surface

The Iranian leadership is facing a serious challenge, The Irish Times comments:

“The protests appear to have wrongfooted the regime, which claims they are inspired by outside influences, but hardly any senior politician has been willing to defend the arrest. ... But the brutality of the morality police is renowned and clearly tolerated by the regime. The courageous protests, faced down by batons, bullets and gas, are the most significant challenge to the regime in recent years, a sign that below the surface tensions are boiling. Repressive means can only sustain it for so long.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Iranians deserve liberation

De Volkskrant shows great respect for the protesters:

“What is striking is the courageous role played by women in the protest. They want an end to the strict dress code imposed by the authorities - and its violent enforcement. Their protests enjoy wide support and are gaining more and more backing in a society that has simply had enough of the mullahs. We must fear that there will be more violence - although a secret hope for change is emerging. Because that is what many Iranians want and deserve: not reform, but liberation.”

France Inter (FR) /

Theocratic regime will hardly falter

Today's protests stand little chance of getting the Iranian regime to rethink its position, France Inter laments:

“No one should underestimate the regime's ability to do whatever it takes to stay in power, as it has done in the past. The international climate, with the stalled negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme and Tehran's rapprochement with Putin's Russia, does not bode well for compromise either. Rarely has the gulf between the old clerics at the top of the state and a youth that just wants to live freely been so wide. In Iran, as in Afghanistan since the return of the Taliban, it is women in particular who are the victims of these theocratic rulers.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Don't abandon these brave protesters

El Mundo calls for international solidarity with the demonstrators:

“The image of hundreds of uncovered young women protesting in the streets is a cry that must be heard by the international community. ... President Ibrahim Raisi is promising an investigation, while his ultra-conservative government is intensifying the repression of the female population by a morality police that engages in violent arrests and physical and verbal harassment. ... As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed yesterday, Tehran must end 'the systematic persecution of women' and allow protests if it wants to stop being a global pariah. No one should forget the bravery of these women whose will is subjugated on a daily basis.”

Oberösterreichische Nachrichten (AT) /

Women make easy targets

The regime in Tehran relies on state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the Öberösterreichische Nachrichten notes:

“The new wave of protests will hardly make the Ayatollahs rethink their practices. Because they want to divert attention from the current massive economic crisis at any price. And women make an easy target when it comes to demonstrating strength. Thanks to technological progress, the Iranian guardians of morality now have a new weapon: with biometric facial recognition, every 'evil' woman can be identified and punished. This is certainly not the way one imagines modernisation.”

The Times (GB) /

Repression out of weakness

Amini's death is an expression of a failing regime that knows nothing but repression, comments The Times:

“When the Iranian regime eggs on the religious police, it does so because it correctly perceives social liberty as a threat to its own stability. President Raisi is in New York for the United Nations general assembly this week. He can expect a frosty reception, and not only because of the young woman who died at the blunt end of his own conservatism. ... With the death of Amini, his footsoldiers have laid bare [the regime's] moral depravity. People do not want to live this way.”