What you need to know about the protests raging in Iran
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Abu Dhabi, UAE
Demonstrations continued across Iran on Sunday despite government crackdowns and state media reports that protesters had ended their rallies.
The protests, now in their tenth day, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in a hospital three days after being apprehended by vice police in Tehran and taken to a “re-education center for violating state hijab rules.
Protests have since taken place in more than 40 cities, including the capital Tehran, and dozens of people have reportedly been killed in clashes with security forces. At least 1,200 have been arrested, according to state-backed media.
Rallies that began with calls for justice for Amini’s death have morphed into a broader protest, uniting a range of factions and social classes, many of whom are calling for the regime’s downfall.
Here’s what you need to know about the protests:
How are current protests different?
Today’s protests are reminiscent of earlier anti-government movements, but the key issues driving today’s mobilization are different, experts say, which arguably makes them more important.
Previous waves of protests – in 2019, 2021 and more recently this year – were mainly fueled by economic grievances, says Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and CEO of the Stock Exchange & Bazaar Foundation in London, adding that it was one of the main reasons why the demonstrations did not take place. move on to other segments of society.
« It’s different, because what people are really asking for is a bigger type of political change, » Batmanghelidj said, adding that this movement has made it « easier to generate solidarity between different social groups. »
Today’s protests are also bringing together young Iranians with internet access who did not experience Iran before the Islamic Republic, said Sanam Vakil, senior researcher for the Middle East and North Africa program at the group. Chatham House reflection in London.
How safe does the government feel now?
The government doesn’t seem to feel any more vulnerable than before, said Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC. « And they can miscalculate here. »
Experts expect the protests to escalate. On Sunday, one of Iran’s main teachers’ unions called for a nationwide strike. Workers’ strikes are sensitive in Iran because they bring back memories of the 1979 revolution, when collective labor action acted as a useful tactic that helped bring down the Shah.
“I think it is very likely that we will see more strikes because strikes were happening even before this [movement] », Parsi said. « They could end up reinforcing each other, » he said, adding that the strikes could add more pressure on the government.
How likely is the government to make concessions and what would those concessions look like?
Ending the protests is more likely to come through the use of brute force than concessions, analysts say.
The government has accused Western media of being behind the protests, hinting at foreign conspiracies. Analysts say this determines how they will be treated.
“If they see it as a security threat and not a matter of political expediency, then they are more likely to respond using the tools of their security apparatus,” Batmanghelidj said. « The government has far more capacity for repression than reform at this point. »
Vakil said that even if the authorities make concessions through minor reforms, the bigger question will be « how to get these young women to put their hijab back on. »
A face-saving outcome would be a rollback of the morality police, she said, adding that a complete scrapping of the hijab law is unlikely. A referendum allowing Iranians to vote on the hijab issue could also help quell the protests, she said, also casting doubt on what is happening.
When does government become vulnerable, and how close is it to that point?
Despite ten days of protests that have spread across the country as the death toll has risen, protests continue to be leaderless, with some of the protests’ loudest and most visible supporters living in exile as the government has Restrict Internet access at home.
« This is an indigenous Iranian movement, » Vakil said, « and it’s important to point out that ordinary Iranians inside the country are the mobilizers of what’s happening. »
A figurehead would be needed both to negotiate change with the government and to internally lead the movement itself, Batmanghelidj said.
The protests have a wide range of grievances, going beyond compulsory hijab and the brutality of the state security apparatus.
It also remains unclear whether there are members within the Iranian government who understand the issues at stake and are prepared to push for meaningful change within the existing power structure, Batmanghelidj added.
Germany signs energy deal with UAE amid diversification
German utility RWE has signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to deliver liquefied natural gas to Germany by the end of December, Reuters reported on Sunday. The announcement came on the second day of a two-day trip to the Gulf region by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in his bid to secure alternative energy resources. ADNOC will deliver the first cargo in late 2022 for use in the trial operation of a floating natural gas terminal at Brunsbuettel, the UAE’s official WAM news agency reported.
- Background: On Saturday, Scholz spoke in Jeddah with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In Qatar, he said Berlin and Doha will continue their cooperation on hydrogen, which will play a key role in decarbonizing and electrifying the German economy.
- Why is it important: Germany, until recently heavily dependent on Russia for gas, has been seeking to diversify its energy supply since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Although the initial quantity of LNG to be delivered from Abu Dhabi is relatively small, it is a politically important deal to shore up gas supplies from outside Russia as Berlin seeks to deepen its ties with the Gulf. and finding alternative energy sources. Germany, however, lacks the infrastructure to import liquefied gas.
Banks in Lebanon will partially reopen after a wave of hold-ups
Banks in Lebanon were due to partially reopen on Monday after a week-long shutdown, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) said in a statement sent to CNN. Due to the « current difficult security conditions and the need to preserve the safety of customers and employees, in the absence of adequate protection from the State », banks will partially reopen services for commercial use , said the ABL. Private depositors will only be allowed to access ATMs.
- Background: Banks closed on September 19, prompted by a wave of bank robberies where Lebanese depositors, some armed, robbed branches across the country demanding to withdraw their savings.
- Why is it important: Depositors in Lebanon have had their accounts frozen for the past two years, due to capital controls imposed by banks following the country’s financial collapse. On September 16, five banks were robbed by disgruntled depositors demanding to withdraw some of their dollar savings.
Controversial Muslim cleric Qaradawi dies
Senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, based in Qatar and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, died on Monday, according to a message posted on his official Twitter account.
- Background: The clergyman, in his nineties, strongly criticized Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi and his crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt and Qatar’s Gulf neighbors who have imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on the country have regularly called out Doha for giving it sanctuary. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
- Why is it important: Qatar repaired its relations with the boycotting states and resumed commercial and diplomatic relations with them. His Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani recently declared that his country does not host any « active members » of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As the hype surrounding the upcoming 2022 World Cup reaches fever pitch, rival European teams have teamed up to send a united message of tolerance to Qatar.
Ten countries – the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales – will participate in a season-long « OneLove » campaign to promote inclusion and combat discrimination.
Each of these nations except Sweden and Norway have qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and each captain of the eight qualifying nations will wear a distinctive OneLove armband – which features a heart containing colors of all walks of life – during the tournament.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to three years in prison. The Dutch Football Association, which is spearheading the campaign, chose the colors to represent all heritages, origins, genders and sexual identities.
Gulf states have cracked down on LGBTQ symbols lately, with Saudi Arabia ordering the removal of rainbow flags from stores, and the six Gulf states, including Qatar, calling on streaming service Netflix to be removed content that violates local sensibilities.
A Qatari security official told the Associated Press news agency in April that rainbow flags could be removed from supporters at the World Cup to protect them from attacks for promoting rights homosexuals.
« It’s an important message that fits football: on the pitch, everyone is equal, and that should be the case everywhere in society. With the OneLove group, we express this message, » said Virgil van Dijk, Dutch captain.