Protests have been shaking Iranian cities for nearly a dozen nights, sparked by the death of a young women's rights activist in the custody of the country's morality police. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, was arrested for wearing her headscarf too loosely while on a family visit to Tehran.
Officially, Amini died of heart failure. But her family (and many, many others) believe she died from injuries sustained as police beat her during and after her arrest on September 13. "She was tortured, according to eyewitnesses," said Amini's cousin, Erfan Mortezaei. "She was tortured in the van after her arrest, then tortured at the police station for half an hour, then hit on her head and she collapsed."
The protests sparked by Amini's death in custody have led to more death, as Iranian security forces have turned violent on protesters. Thirty-five people have reportedly been killed in the protests as of last weekend (which is almost certainly an undercount, as the figure comes from the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting).
"It's the libertarian cliche: don't make a law unless you're willing to kill someone to enforce it," said Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward during yesterday's Reason Roundtable podcast. In this case, the law Iranian authorities are willing to kill to enforce is a prohibition on women showing their hair. That says a lot.
Young Iranians "don't want this system any more," says Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis. "They want democracy."
"They want a new government… This generation is very, very different from us," she tells me, especially young men's solidarity with women's rights inside Iran. pic.twitter.com/Q5EXpwqJ8K
— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) September 26, 2022
But the current protests are about much more than Amini's death and Iranian women being forced to wear hijabs. Samira Mohyeddin, a Canadian journalist born in Tehran, told Slate:
Most of the people protesting are young….This generation had nothing to do with bringing the Islamic Republic to power. That's something their parents' generation did. So, they're like, "We don't want this. We didn't ask for this." It's obvious from their chants. It's not, "Where is my vote?" or "End the veil." Their chants are "Death to the dictator," "Clerics get lost," "We don't want an Islamic Republic." There are videos of hand-to-hand skirmishes between protestors and Iranian riot police holding tasers, guns, batons, and protestors are coming right at them. This is unprecedented. We haven't seen this level of fury and fearlessness. People are angry, and it's moved beyond the morality police and Mahsa Amini. Mahsa was the spark, but it's moved way beyond that at this point.
At least 1,200 Iranian protesters have been arrested, the state-backed news agency Tasmin said on Saturday.
Information coming out of Iran has been spotty, since the country's leaders disrupted internet access, blocking it entirely in some areas and blocking certain social media platforms in others, according to NetBlocks.
Internet is shut down and very difficult to get videos from Iran.
— Sima Sabet | سیما ثابت (@Sima_Sabet) September 27, 2022
Elon Musk is responding by activating Starlink internet access in Iran, though the hardware required for it—and absent there—may mean Musk's efforts are futile.
At The Bulwark, Shay Khatiri offers a good analysis of how this protest movement fits into Iranian (and U.S.) history:
It was around this time of the year in 1978 that, thanks to the brutality of the shah's security guards, mass protests devolved into a cycle of violence that would give rise to the current regime. The coalition of dissent was split among the Communists, the nationalists, and the Islamists. But only the last group had a charismatic leader to offer, so the rest had to fall in line behind him. It helped that American and European media promoted Ruhollah Khomeini as a liberal democrat. Within months, the shah had fled his country forever, and Khomeini would be Iran's ruler.
Although this event is commonly called the "Iranian Revolution," it was anything but Iranian. Khomeini had condemned Iran's national traditions as a divergence from Islam. The revolution of 1979 was Islamist—sacrificing national character on the altar of religious identity—and it established an Islamist regime. More precisely, it was an anti-Iranian Islamist revolution, and it led to an anti-Iranian Islamist non-hereditary monarchy.
It was this Islamist regime that instituted a dress code that included women wearing a hijab. It was one of many moves to dictate what women could wear and do and to deny women full rights.
Protests have broken out many times since then, and have been especially frequent since 2017. Iranian lawyer Artoniss Ehsani called the current protests part of a "slow revolution." But others are skeptical:
I've heard the same predictions multiple times in my life. Hope it's true this time. https://t.co/W1fvpbpTRL
— The Alex Nowrasteh (@AlexNowrasteh) September 24, 2022
In yesterday's Reason Roundtable, Editor at Large Nick Gillespie suggested that the Iranian people would have overthrown the dictatorial government long ago if the U.S. hadn't invaded Iraq and destabilized the region.
The best thing the U.S. government can do now is probably to welcome more Iranian refugees.
Kind reminder: Any Western politician expressing support for Iranians, whilst simultaneously building borders to keep out Iranian refugees, is not in the business of human rights but is in the business of regime change & destabilisation of the Middle East.
— Tiara Sahar Ataii سحر (@tiara_sahar) September 24, 2022
We should immediately expedite all asylum requests from Iran, Russia, Ukraine, Yemen, and anywhere there is an active war zone or uprising against tyranny.
We should be the most welcoming nation to those seeking asylum. We should be a lamp of liberty to the world.
— Chase Oliver (@ChaseForLiberty) September 25, 2022
A subreddit is pushing back against Texas' social media law in a novel way:
— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) September 26, 2022
A bevy of bad economic indicators. Companies are cutting jobs, the lowering of gas prices has stalled, and "and a long-simmering national housing shortage may be catching up with us," writes Jim Geraghty at National Review. For example:
Meta—you know, Facebook—plans "to cut expenses by at least 10 percent in the coming months, in part through staff reductions." Google is eyeing similar cuts, with CEO Sundar Pichai characterizing it as "being a bit more responsible through one of the toughest macroeconomic conditions underway in the past decade." Twilio has announced plans to lay off 11 percent if its workforce, and Snap has announced plans to lay off 20 percent of its workforce.
A lot of big companies, even outside the tech sector, are announcing the elimination of executive positions. The Gap is eliminating 500 corporate jobs. Boeing has announced that it will eliminate about 150 positions in finance and accounting in October. Last month, Walmart announced that it would eliminate 200 corporate jobs.
It's not just big brand companies: It's also an ice-cream plant in New York; it's also a slew of hospitals nationwide. God help you if you work in real estate: "Some of the biggest players in the real estate industry, including RE/MAX, Redfin and Wells Fargo, have announced layoffs in recent months totaling thousands of jobs. Industry analysts are projecting the cuts could eventually be on par with what was seen during the housing crash of 2008."
More bad news here, if you can stomach it.
• An Oregon rape victim was held in jail for nine days to ensure that she would show up to testify against her rapist.
• Italy has elected right-wing populist Giorgia Meloni as its next prime minister. Meloni—who represents a political party called the Brothers of Italy—"is poised to lead Italy's first far-right-led government since World War II," notes the Associated Press.
It's striking that twice in this short clip Meloni stretches to blame "financial speculators" for scheming purposefully to inflict societal ills you might think were remote from financial markets as such. That's a rhetorical theme with a history we should recognize. https://t.co/4AdBgQbCVu
— Walter Olson (@walterolson) September 26, 2022
• Why are people fleeing American territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific?
• "Black people represent less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, but they account for more than half of all exonerations, according to a new report" that Reason's Scott Shackford covered yesterday.
• The British pound is crashing, reaching a record low against the U.S. dollar on Monday.
• American factory jobs are booming like they haven't since the 1970s.