February 2, 2023

Chicby Karina

Think exceptional travel

The Latest on the Protests in Iran 2022—And How to Help the Women Leading Them

Condé Nast Traveler

By now, the world knows her name: Mahsa “Jina” Amini. On September 13, the 22-year-old ethnic Kurdish woman was arrested in the capital Tehran by the so-called “morality police” for “violating” mandatory hejab. According to her brother, it was two hours between the time she was taken from the police station to the hospital. After spending three days in an ICU—it is widely believed that the morality police had brutally beaten her—Amini died on September 16. That’s when her story, initially a Persian language hashtag (#Mahsa_Amini), spread like a wildfire throughout the country only to turn into widescale protests in 30 out of 31 provinces.

Here’s the latest on the protests, how to follow the latest developments, and how to help the women participating in Iran.

Women and Gen Z are leading the charge

Mandatory hejab has always been seen as a symbol of repression under the Islamic Republic and one of the key tools to control women, who make up 60 percent of the country’s university graduates. While women are at the forefront of these protests—removing, and in some instances, burning their headscarves, and even cutting their hair—this is very much a youth-facing movement, led by Iranian Generation Z (Gen Z). Like their western counterparts, this is a tech-savvy generation that has grown up with the internet and social media—albeit heavily censored, as  35 percent of the most popular sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are blocked.

Sixty percent of Iran’s 84 million population is under the age of 30 and are ruled by an aging clerical establishment—Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 83-years-old—with which they have little to nothing in common. Thanks to certain circumvention tools to bypass internet censorship, Iranians can see how the rest of the world lives and are also able to share on social media and chat about the injustices and double standards in their own society. Anger has been bubbling beneath the surface of this generation for some time now.

Why these demonstrations feel different than past protests

Since December 2017, Iranians across the sociopolitical spectrum have been taking to the streets in the country to demonstrate against mismanagement, corruption, and to voice general disillusionment with the Islamic Republic. So while protests are not new in Iran, the fact that the current movement is being led by a younger generation is unparalleled and significant. What’s also important to note is that these protests are not just about the morality police or mandatory hejab, but rather about fighting the larger status quo.

Protesters in the streets of numerous cities and provincial towns are saying that they no longer want an Islamic Republic, as evident by the chants of “Death to Khamenei,” “Khamenei is a murderer, his guardianship is invalid,” “I don’t want, I don’t want an Islamic Republic,” “This year is bloody, Seyed Ali [Khamenei] will be overthrown,” and “I will fight, I will die, I will take back Iran.”

The role of social media—and where to get the latest updates

Over the years, the internet has played a crucial role in spreading information about demonstrations across Iran and has given the international community, media outlets, and Western-based human rights organizations the ability to document and bring attention to the human rights violations committed by security forces.