The Islamic Republic of Iran continues its brutal crackdown on ongoing pro-democracy protests, which erupted in September in response to the murder of a young woman who was arrested for not wearing a proper headscarf. According to the Iranian NGO Human Rights, at least 458 protesters were killed, including 63 children. Death sentences have been issued for at least 11 people.

Mohsen Shekari, a 22-year-old cafe worker in Tehran, was executed on December 8 after being found guilty of using a weapon with intent to kill and “hating God”. Amnesty International called it “a highly unfair sham trial” with no due process.

Majidreza Rahnavard was publicly hanged on December 12. He is alleged to have killed two members of the Basij paramilitary force. Human rights advocates have firmly condemned the execution, which took place just 23 days after his arrest, as based on a forced confession. Similar to Shekari, Rahnavard faces an unfair trial that moves quickly and lacks due process.

At least 18,000 people have been detained during the current protests. There is some concern about mass executions, which has raised the specter of the infamous 1988 mass execution of Iranian political prisoners. The current president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, is one of the few. judicial officer overseeing the 1988 executions.

The Islamic Republic shows no signs of loosening its grip on the country. However, the widespread protests have spanned many ethnic and religious communities, as well as between economic classes and geographies. The protesters have challenged limits on freedom of speech and civil liberties and have been strongly supported by Iranian actors, musicians and athletes, who are among those arrested, imprisoned and tortured. This public dissent by prominent public figures has had an amplifying effect across Iran and internationally.

celebrity’s point of view

Rappers Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin were arrested in October for performing online in support of protesters. Toomaj Salehi articulated his criticism with the following lyrics:

Someone’s sin is dancing with her hair in the wind.
Someone’s sin is being brave and being criticized…
Your 44 years as a mandarin is a year of failure.

Shervin Hajipour’s song Baraye (Because…) has also become part of a protest sound that reaches far beyond Iran. Baraye has been covered by many international artists, including Coldplay in a performance with Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani.

In the world of cinema, award-winning Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti released a photo of herself without a hijab, holding a sign with the protest slogan “Women, Life, Freedom.” . The photo was posted on Alidoosti’s Instagram account, which has 8 million followers. Other Iranian actors have engaged in similar acts of dissent.

Rakhshan Bani Etemad, the famous Iranian director, posted a video of her without a hijab on social media, in which she spoke out against the violence of the regime, and specifically lamented about it. the death of 9-year-old boy Kian Pirfalak, who was killed by the regime’s security forces. The force opened fire on the vehicle in which he was a passenger.

A group of prominent members of the Iranian theatrical arts community also released a statement on Instagram in which they stated that they “will not participate in or watch performances where women are required to wear headscarves”. mandatory start”.

The Committee to Monitor Artists Arrest, an NGO dedicated to tracking the arrests and detentions of artists, said at least 150 figures from film and theater “have been summoned, arrested, and arrested.” detained, charged, banned from leaving the country or persecuted” since the beginning of the protests.

Sports figures and national sports teams have also made significant public outreach during the protests. Elnaz Rekabi participated in the international sport climbing competition in Korea without a hijab. She was welcomed home by the crowd at the airport to show support. But then she was forced to issue a public statement denying the act and explaining it was an accident. Since then, it has been reported that she has been placed under house arrest. It was also reported that her family home was destroyed by government officials.

Similarly, the Iranian archer, Parmida Ghasemi, removed his head scarf in Iran only to be forced to withdraw and apologize for the action. Fasiha Radmanesh, who won a bronze medal at an international Muay Thai martial arts competition in Turkey, received her medal at the awards ceremony with the words “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” (Women, Life) , Freedom) in black ink on her forehead and cheeks.

Several Iranian sports teams, including the men’s national beach soccer team, the men’s national basketball team, the men’s national sitting volleyball team, and the men’s national water polo team, have refused to sing the national anthem. to show solidarity with the protesters.

The men’s national soccer team initially played their first match at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. During the match against England, the team stood in silence as the anthem played. They had previously faced fierce criticism for meeting with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi before departing for Qatar.

Iran's men's football team stands with children during their national anthem during a match at a stadium in Qatar, November 2022.
Silent protest: Iran’s men’s soccer team refuses to sing the national anthem during their first match at the 2022 World Cup.
Mutsu Kawamori/AFLO

However, it was reported that after the match, they were summoned to meet the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and that the families of the team members were threatened with imprisonment and torture. They sang the national anthem at the next matches.

The head of the Office of Politics and Ideology of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Ali Saeedi Shahroudi, has called for the state to clamp down on the behavior of musicians, actors and sports stars.

The protests continued.

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