Conflicts & War

Iran’s disenchanted youth holds onto hopes for change

Tehran, Mar 16 (EFE).- Iran’s disenchanted youth, which has been the main driving force behind the protests that swept the country following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, is feeling let down by the movement’s failure to secure greater freedoms.

“Nothing has changed,” Kyra, a resident of Tehran who has not worn a veil in months in a gesture of civil disobedience, tells Efe.

“The protest movement has not been recognized by the regime,” adds the young woman, who withheld her surname.

Six months ago, Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died after being arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police for not wearing her veil correctly.

Her death sparked a wave of unrest calling for an end to the Islamic Republic which was met by a violent government crackdown.

Young Iranians protested in streets, universities and schools with many women burning their veils in public and dancing on the streets in actions that just weeks before Amini’s killing would have been unheard of.

Iran’s youth dared to dream of a different future for the country which has been under Shia Islamic rule since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini founded the theocratic regime in 1979.

But to the dismay of Iran’s youth movement, the protests have not paved the way for freedom and change.

Instead, the government has resorted to force and repression with almost 500 protestors killed and tens of thousands of people arrested — 22,000 of whom were recently pardoned — and four executions, one of which was public.

The crackdown has had the desired effect, and protests have all but fizzled out.

But there are some exceptions, like on Tuesday night when protests erupted during a celebration of Chaharshanbe Soori — a fire festival that dates back to 1,700 BC and is frowned upon by the authorities.

Authorities announced in December the disbandment of the morality police, but for Kyra, more needs to be done.

The laws that force women to cover themselves are still in place and Kyra says the problem does not only lie with the government.

“You can go without a veil in the north of Tehran, but in the more conservative southern neighborhoods, people will tell you in a bad way to wear it,” she says.

“The mindset of many people is still intact in a country that is basically very traditional,” she adds.

Darejani, another Tehran local who gives Efe only her first name, agrees with Kyra.

“The only thing that has changed is that many women go without a veil,” she says.

But the mother of two teenagers fears that the authorities will impose the hijab again, one way or another.

“There are banks that won’t serve you if you don’t wear a veil,” she continues.

Darejani says the last six months are the product of a generational shift and points to her teenage daughters who refuse to cover their heads.

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