| 11 December 2023, Monday |

Iranian protests defy repression

As Iranian demonstrations continued in several cities on Wednesday, an official close to the Iranian leader said that the results of an opinion poll showed that 65 percent of Iranian respondents supported the protest movement.


Anti-regime rallies have swept the country since the death of the Iranian-Kurdish Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police seven weeks ago, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.


The protests, which constitute one of the most difficult challenges facing Iran’s clerical leaders in decades, are gaining momentum, angering the country’s authorities. Those have tried to accuse Iran’s enemies abroad and their agents of fueling the protest movement, a narrative that few Iranians believe.


Authorities warned demonstrators last week that it was time to leave the streets, but the protests, which continued in residential areas, main streets and universities across the country, showed no signs of waning.


Anger among university students escalated after decisions to temporarily deprive a number of students from attending classes, and expel them from university campuses. The students also denounced the campaign of arrests and the “kidnapping” of a number of professors by plainclothes officers.


The university strikes come as Iran is preparing to celebrate Student’s Day next Saturday, the anniversary of the storming of the US Embassy by students supporting the first Iranian leader (Khomeini) in 1979, and taking 53 diplomats hostage for 444 days.


The state-run Mehr news agency reported that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi would address the annual event, which mobilizes government agencies every year.


Meanwhile, Mostafa Rostami, head of the Iranian Supreme Leader’s representative body in universities, said the results of a new opinion poll showed that 55 percent of Iranians supported the protests.


Rostami added that 10 percent supported the “riots”, which means that 65 percent were in favor of the protest movement. The official did not refer to the party that conducted the opinion poll, but tried to downplay the role of freedoms in the protests.


He said the survey showed that 60 percent of the protest supporters attribute their reasons to economic and living issues, pointing out that 20 percent consider administrative corruption to be among the main causes of the demonstrations.


Rostami said that 59 percent of respondents demanded improving living conditions, 6 percent the lifting of the ban on the Internet, and “only 3.5 percent demand freedom for women to wear the veil.”


He stressed that the economic situation in the country has “not been not appropriate” during the past ten years.


“We must admit that there are problems in the infrastructure,” he remarked.


“People risk their lives to go to the streets, but the hope that they are able to defeat the regime is much bigger than their fears,” Omid Memarian, senior Iran analyst at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told Reuters.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat