Tehran’s rearguard battles against youth

The Iranian regime seems oblivious to the growing unhappiness of its people.
Sunday 15/07/2018
A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, last June. (AP)
A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, last June. (AP)

The regime in Tehran is waging another rearguard battle, this time against its own youth.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, a young Iranian woman who had removed the mullah-imposed hijab and waved “a white flag of peace in the street” during protests last December, was sentenced to 20 years in jail. It’s quite an excessive punishment by any standard or legal provision.

News reports said no fewer than 29 other Iranian women were arrested in February for removing their headscarves. More recently, there has been much ferment on social media over the arrest of 18-year-old gymnast Maedeh Hojabri for 300 videos on Instagram of her dancing without a hijab. Her arrest provoked a wave of protest on social media with Iranians using the hashtag #Dancingisnotacrime to offer commentary.

Hojabri was subjected to public shaming, including an appearance on Iranian state TV to make an emotional admission that she had broken “moral norms.”

The way Hojabri and other young women have been treated has intensified the discontent among ordinary Iranians. They were already resentful about Tehran’s domestic and regional policies, which lie at the root of increasingly difficult living conditions.

Iranians are bound to seek an outlet for what they feel for all that the authorities block access to social media networks. Instagram could be next, now that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Telegram messaging application are unavailable. Despite the draconian interdiction, 47 million Iranians are estimated to use social media networks, mostly through proxies and virtual private networks.

The crackdown on social media, another rearguard Iranian battle, has intensified over the years. In 2014, a group of young Iranians were arrested for posting videos dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.”

The regime seems oblivious to the growing unhappiness of its people and how its repressive policies are making that unhappiness escalate to open revolt in the streets.

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