September 16, 2023, marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s “morality police” and the outbreak of the “Women-Life-Freedom” uprising which represented the most powerful challenge yet to the 44-year reign of the reactionary, theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).
Protests on and around September 16 are planned throughout the world, including preparations for protests against IRI president Ebrahim Raisi’s September 21 speech to the UN General Assembly in New York City.1
Inside Iran, youth are risking arrests, beatings, or even death to spray graffiti, secretly distribute flyers and stickers, and hang overhead banners on bridges calling for the renewal of protests on the anniversary.
On August 18, in Zahedan, the capital of the extremely oppressed province Sistan and Baluchistan, marchers resumed weekly Friday protests with chants demanding the release of political prisoners.
Regime Intensifies Preemptive Repression
At least 13 women’s rights activists, all but one of them women, were arrested in Gilan province in northern Iran on August 17 and 18, Human Rights Activists News Agency reported (The Farsi material at this link, and subsequent Farsi language sites linked from this article, were translated to English by IEC volunteers). They are accused of planning to incite “chaos and vandalism” on the upcoming anniversary.
Officials of several universities in Tehran announced plans to convert to “virtual” classes for the first few weeks of the fall semester (coinciding with the anniversary), supposedly to “avoid traffic jams.” The Center for Human Rights in Iran reported: “At least 2,843 students at 45 universities in Iran have reportedly been summoned to disciplinary committees in a statewide campaign aimed at preventing more anti-state protests ahead of the #WomanLifeFreedom movement's Sept. 16 anniversary.”
In response, about a dozen independent student organizations from Tehran to Kurdistan stated:
No form of closure of universities is acceptable, closing universities is a sign of terror of the Islamic government! Whispers of university closures are heard in the primary days of the upcoming academic year amid a situation where government officials have been fiercely equipping their oppressive forces on campuses in recent months…
We don't want to go back. Such tricks can never save the Islamic Republic from its overthrow. We will respond to these government actions on the anniversary of the Women-Life-Freedom Revolution and continue in the new academic year with organized and coordinated protests and strikes.
From Instagram @FreeToomajNow Aug 17, 2023: "Brave and revolutionary girls prepare banners containing the slogan: 'We swear by the blood of our comrades to stand until the end’ and install them on the pedestrian bridges to encourage people to continue fighting for freedom.”
Mothers of Laleh Park2 issued a statement which listed a long and comprehensive list of recent arrests, sentences and other intimidation attempts of prisoner family members, followers of the Baha’i faith, students and academics, and journalists. They concluded (translated to English by IEC volunteers, emphasis added):
We, the Mothers of Laleh Park in Iran, as a voice of the Iranian people's litigation movement, strongly condemn these arrests, deprivations and harassment and demand the unconditional release of the recent detainees and all political and ideological prisoners. We ask the freedom-loving and justice-loving people of Iran and the world not to remain silent in the face of all this repression, injustice, discrimination and crime and to raise our protest cry every day because we are the only people who can stand on the street and in public places with independent movements. And to the people, let's stop this dictatorial and totalitarian system that does not turn away from any cruelty and crime in order to preserve its corrupt foundations and wealth and power.
Also, on August 17, according to Iranian news site Etemad, prominent film director Saeed Roustaee and producer Javad Noruzbegi were sentenced to six months in prison for “participating in the opposition’s propaganda against the Islamic regime.” They were imprisoned for creating the award-winning movie “Leila’s Brothers” and submitting it to Cannes Film Festival without IRI approval. Most of the sentence is suspended for five years, meaning they are under the gun those full five years, and they are barred from engaging with other members of the film industry.
The regime must know that escalating violence and suppression will not only fail to weaken the people’s will to transition away from the despotic theocratic regime but will leave the people with no choice to persist on this path.
In the midst of this intensifying situation, on August 10 the U.S. government announced it has reached an agreement with the IRI: the IRI will release five dual U.S.-Iranian citizens now imprisoned in Iran; in exchange, the U.S. will release $6 billion in Iranian assets into a South Korean fund for “humanitarian” expenses.
All these prisoners – and all Iran’s political prisoners – certainly should be released from the regime’s dungeons! None have received fair trials or justice, all have been subject to brutality and often torture.
This deal reflects the reactionary interests of the U.S. imperialists on the one hand, and Iran’s reactionary theocratic fundamentalists on the other. Relying on the reactionary powers of the world is NOT the model for winning freedom for Iran’s political prisoners. Instead we must rely on the masses of people worldwide and continue to circulate and publish the International Emergency Campaign’s (IEC’s) Emergency Appeal: The Lives of Iran’s Political Prisoners Hang in the Balance—We Must ACT Now.
Stay tuned to the IEC website for updates on upcoming protests against the Islamic Republic, in the U.S. and around the world.