Protests against the Islamic regime entered their 18th day on Monday, spreading to more than 100 universities across Iran, according to several reports, and sparking rallies across the globe in solidarity with Iranian demonstrators.

After three weeks it appeared the demonstrations were losing steam but, despite the government shutting down the internet to curtail communication on social media and with the outside world, protests expanded over the weekend igniting universities around the nation.

While several uprisings against the Islamic regime have taken place – one as recently as 2019 – none resulted in concrete change, only deadly crackdowns. And even in this one, at least 100 protestors have been killed so far. However, some analysts and observers feel this time the outcome could be different.

“This is unprecedented and historic since it’s the first women-led revolution in the world, demanding the end of the Islamic regime in Iran,” Zohreh Mizrahi, an Iranian-American attorney, told ALL ARAB NEWS. “This isn’t about reformation or relation of some laws by a specific group of people, Iranians are rising up against the core of the Islamic Republic. Iranians want regime change.”

Mizrahi led a delegation of Iranian expats to Israel this spring to raise awareness of Iranians’ desperation for freedom from a repressive regime. The purpose of that visit is perhaps even more poignant now.

“We want to stop the world leaders from feeding life into the mullahs,” Mizrahi said.

Mizrahi noted that more than 150 rallies took place around the world on Saturday including one in downtown Los Angeles which drew 20,000 people with signs that read, “Iranian lives matter.” Another demonstration, in Toronto, drew 50,000.

The current protests in Iran began when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in police custody after her arrest by the “morality police” on Sept. 13 for allegedly wearing her head scarf improperly. Amini suffered severe blows to the head but police claim she died of a heart attack.

Since then, women have taken to the streets removing – and burning – their head scarves in a brazen display of defiance to laws that have only gotten stricter since the current president, Ebrahim Raisi, took office last year.

Golnaz Esfandiari, senior correspondent for Radio Free Europe, wrote in this article  that “A July 5 order by Raisi to enforce the hijab law resulted in a new list of restrictions on how women can dress. In recent months, women judged not to have respected the ‘complete hijab’ have been banned from government offices, banks, and public transportation. The notorious Guidance Patrols, or morality police, have become increasingly active and violent. Videos have emerged on social media appearing to show officers detaining women, forcing them into vans, and whisking them away.”

 

Protestors in Los Angeles spotted a man presumed to be an informant for the Iranian regime filming the crowd

 

Females in Iran are required to wear the hijab from age 9, a law that went into effect after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The dress code is so important to the leaders that, despite dire economic conditions plaguing Iranians, the government has been planning to use high-tech facial recognition surveillance and biometrics on public transportation in order to track and punish women – according to a report before Amini’s death.

In 2019, massive protests took place over the course of several months in Iran, mostly born out of rising fuel prices and other economic hardships. More than 1,500 protestors were killed by security forces and many more imprisoned and later executed including national champion wrestler, Navid Afkari.

While it remains to be seen whether these protests will gain traction or be extinguished by police violence, one Twitter thread claims that, “Several officers of #Iranian Air Force, Navy and Army have released their videos warning commanders of #Iranian Police, #IRGC & other security forces of the regime which are suppressing anti-regime protests in #Iran.”

Shopkeepers around Iran joined by going on strike this weekend in solidarity with the demonstrators.

“The Iran Revolution is not just about the murder of Mahsa Amini. It’s also about Navid Afkari and Pouya Bakhtiari and Neda Agha-Soltan and thousands of Iranians imprisoned, tortured, and killed by the barbaric regime destroying these beautiful lives and a beautiful country,” former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Len Khodorkovsky wrote on Twitter.

Iranian celebrities have been increasingly outspoken as well. One soccer player was banned from leaving the country after he said he supported the protestors. And Shervin Hajipour, a songwriter and music producer, was arrested after he dedicated a song to the protests that went viral and has since become the anthem of this movement.

Another victim, Nika Shakrami, was reported missing during the protests until security forces delivered her body with a smashed nosed and broken skull to her family’s home. She was 17.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, protestors spotted a man presumed to be an informant for the regime filming the crowd. Iran has proven it has a long arm when it comes to targeting Iranian dissidents outside of its borders. Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad has been the target of several kidnapping and assassination attempts in America.

In June, ALL ARAB NEWS interviewed the daughter of Jamshid Sharmahd who was kidnapped and ferried into Iran while trying to catch a connecting flight Dubai on his way back to his family in America. Sharmahd is still in jail and facing the death penalty.

On Monday morning, several social media accounts reported that police had trapped protestors inside a Tehran university and were using tear gas and lethal weapons.

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