OSLO/ISTANBUL (Aftenposten): The demonstrations against the morality police in Iran have already cost several lives. In Oslo, a father mourns his 16-year-old son.
– He died in front of my mother’s eyes, says Salim Haqiqi in a heavy voice.
On Wednesday this week, Haqiqi sat at home in Oslo and followed the news in his home country of Iran. He knew that his 16-year-old son Milan, who lived with his grandmother in the Kurdish part of Iran, took part in the demonstrations.
But he was not prepared for what he was to learn: that his son had been shot and killed.
– He was shot in the foot and shoulder, says Haqiqi. Milan’s uncle was arrested when he tried to help the boy. The family still does not know where the uncle is.
– My mother, who was with them, fainted when she saw Milan lifeless in the middle of the street, says Haqiqi.
Now he doesn’t know what to do.
– His body was taken by the police, but we got it back later in the evening. But we have been told strictly that no one is allowed to go to his funeral.
The people have had enough
When Haqiqi talks about what is happening in Iran now, he calls it the Jina Revolution.
Jina is the Kurdish first name of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died last week in the custody of the Iranian morality police. Amini is said to have been arrested because she had not covered her hair well enough.
The death has sparked outrage and a week of violent protests in Iran. The protesters believe the morality police killed Amini.
Many people have lost their lives in the clashes. State television in Iran says 26 have been killed. The Oslo-based human rights group Iran Human Rights believes there are at least 50 civilians. Among them is Salim Haqiqi’s son.
– Milan, like all other young people, was tired of the dictator and the situation in Iran, says Haqiqi.
On Friday, he demonstrated in Oslo outside the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The demonstrators are demanding that the UN take action to increase international pressure against the clergy.
The demonstrations this week have gone around the world. Historical scenes have played out in the streets.
In a video clip from Tehran, an elderly woman joins the protesters, calmly pulling the shawl off her head.
In another, a young woman lets out her hair and
. Then she throws the hijab on the fire in front of her. Around her, the crowd cheers.
The scenes in Iran are astonishing. How far will these protests go?— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) September 20, 2022
Through social media, these moments have been shared all over the world. But now there will be fewer pictures and videos.
Because while Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the world leaders during the UN General Assembly in New York, the regime has this week shut down the internet in large parts of the country.
Disconnects from the network
The purpose is to limit the contact the protesters have with each other through messaging services and social media. As a result, the stories about what happens in Iran’s streets do not reach the rest of the world either.
But it comes at a cost: When the internet shuts down, it also affects Iranian business and disrupts public services. That the regime now chooses to close the network is therefore a sign that they are struggling to gain control, several commentators believe.
The last time Iran blocked internet access to such a large extent was in November 2019. It was also in connection with large protests in a number of cities, that time due to sharp increases in petrol prices.
In total, the network went black for six days. Meanwhile, the police started firing on the protesters.
The security forces shot at the demonstrators from rooftops, helicopters and in the open street, according to Amnesty International. Over 300 people were killed.
Also in 2019, the families of those killed were refused to speak to the media or to hold funerals for the victims, as the family of Milan Haqiqi has now been told. Amnesty documented this in the months after the riots.
Fearing a stronger response
– Unfortunately, the regime has only just begun to respond, says Ali Ansari to Aftenposten. He is a professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
He believes we will soon see stronger attempts by the regime to put down the riots. That it has not happened yet, Ansari believes, is because the president is in New York with the rest of the world’s leaders.
The regime would prefer to avoid that kind of attention now, the professor points out. As soon as he’s back, Ansari thinks we’ll see a familiar pattern:
– First they shut down the network. Then the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, will give a speech in which he makes it clear that the fun is over. That the security forces will do what is necessary to stop the riots.
Then comes the real response.
Videos that the BBC has verified show that police and security forces have also this week fired at the demonstrators. On Friday, a regime-friendly newspaper in a leading position writes that the security forces should not show mercy.
On Friday, several thousand people who support the regime also demonstrated in Tehran, writes the AP news agency.
– Another nail in the coffin
Salim Haqiqi is sure that the regime cannot survive large any longer.
– The regime is in danger. This is their last year. We want a secular and democratic state. If it doesn’t happen this time, it will happen soon, believes Haqiqi.
The demonstrations in 2019 were far more violent than those we see now, Professor Ansari points out. He believes that what is of greater importance now is that the demonstrations are taking place in large cities such as Tehran.
– This round is in many ways more intense. Moreover, it is a purely political matter, and not about finances and living conditions, as last time, says Ansari.
However, he does not believe that this round of demonstrations will lead to any regime change.
– But there is another nail in the coffin. Such demonstrations happen alarmingly often now, says Ansari.