During the last 15 years in Iran, there have been a number of nationwide protests against the government with many different grievances. Each was ended by the government’s brutal repression and caused thousands of deaths.
This year, the death of Mahsa Amini has sparked nationwide protests once again. Ongoing now, for more than 50 days, there have been the longest running protests in Iran in 15 years.
On the third day of protests in Iran, Sara, a resident of Esfahan and a large group of her relatives and friends decided to join the protests in her hometown. In the early hours of the night, the streets were uncommonly crowded. Sara, whose name has been changed for her safety, heard people shouting slogans in the main square near them, so they split up and entered an alley to go there.
At that time, they were just three people when a police car approached them. Police barred their way and asked Sara’s cousin why they were there. Her cousin, an 18-year-old boy, answered the police that he came from the gym and was on his way back home. The police detained him and started to describe his features into a walkie-talkie.
Sara and her friend started to shout to get others’ attention, but two more policemen, wearing plainclothes, arrived on motorcycles. Ultimately, eight policemen were there and they handcuffed her cousin.
“I was shocked and only thought about what would happen if they arrested us, but they didn’t get the chance,” Sara said. “As the police moved to arrest us we started shouting, and a crowd started to form scaring the police.”
Her cousin’s situation was unknown for two hours. When he returned home after a few hours, he had been beaten by police to get his phone password, so they could make sure he did not belong to any organizations.
“I prefer to be beaten in the streets instead of arrested by the government because if anyone is arrested, their fate is unknown,” Sara said.
In the days after Mahsa’s death and nationwide protests, the internet connection was shut down in Iran to prevent news from spreading. The Internet remains cut off to this day, and as a result, people are not informed about what is happening in the country.
“Sometimes, I can’t get any news about other cities,” Sara told 8forty. “I call my friends and family to see if they have access to the internet or if they have heard any news. Otherwise, I just hear the sound of bullets constantly without knowing what is going on, and with each sound, I imagine that someone is killed.”
Some people can still connect to the internet through VPNs, but the news they read there can be hard to process. Bahar, an 18-year-old university student, is struggling with the terrible news that she reads every day. “Whenever I check Instagram, I hear lots of devastating news. I stopped doing my regular routines. It has been more than a month since I have gone to any cafe,” Bahar said. “I know that lots of teenagers my age are killed and raped by the government, and I feel guilty subconsciously because I cannot do anything for them.”
The brutal government crackdown has changed everything about how Iranians live their lives. “Asking each other ‘how are you’ is a senseless question these days,” Bahar said.
Cover image: Commons Wikimedia