After a period of relative calm across Iran, Thursday was another action-packed day for the Iranians who are holding regular antigovernment protests for about five months.
People across the country had planned for the Thursday protests since at least a fortnight ago as it marked the 40th day after the execution of Mohammad-Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini, two of the four Iranians who were hanged for their participation in antigovernment rallies.
According to videos on social media, the February 16 protests were held in several cities with people chanting slogans against the regime and its ruler Ali Khamenei, whom they call a “dictator”. Protesters responded to calls by grassroot activists that have mobilized thousands of protesters in several towns and cities during the current unrest, and held gatherings at main streets and squares of their cities in evening hours.
Amid a tense presence by security forces, people in several neighborhoods of capital Tehran, the religious city of Mashhad in the northeast, central cities of Arak and Esfahan (Isfahan) and Kurdish majority city of Sanandaj and many others held protest rallies. During their show of solidarity, they chanted the main slogans of the current wave of protests, ignited by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. “This is the year of blood, Seyyed Ali (Khamenei) will be gone,” and “Women, Life, Freedom,” chanted the protesters.
The cities of Ahvaz and Izeh in Khuzestan province, Rasht in Gilan, and some cities in Hormozgan were also scenes of protests on Thursday.
Gatherings were also big in the city of Karaj, near the capital, the hometown of the two protesters, Karami and Hosseini, who were executed 40 days ago.
The 40th day of a loved one’s death – as well as the seventh day -- carries immense cultural significance in Iran, and in case of an unjust killing, the occasion turns into public mourning and fuels angry protests.
Karami and Hosseini were arrested in Karaj during demonstrations on the 40th day of another victim, Hadis Najafi. Holding such events is reminiscent of a similar turn of events 44 years ago, during the Islamic revolution against monarchy that culminated in the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Marking the 40th day for people who were killed during the revolution turned into fresh protests that fueled the movement.
The Thursday demonstrations occurred only one day after Supreme Leader Khamenei bragged about the turnout of government sponsored celebration on February 11 to mark the establishment of the regime, saying "people literally created an epic across the country" in supporting the Islamic Republic. A day later, the people were calling for his ouster in multiple cities.
In addition to nationwide protests, Iranian diaspora communities have also planned another protest rally for February 20 outside the European Parliament in the Belgian capital Brussels. The gathering is meant to call on the European Union countries to designate the Revolutionary Guard – or the IRGC – as a terrorist organization. Thousands of Iranians from all over Europe held a massive rally in Strasbourg in January to pressure the European countries to list the IRGC.
Iranians staged mass rallies in dozens of cities across the world calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic on Saturday [February 11], concurrent with the regime-sponsored events inside Iran to mark the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
In their historic joint event in Washington on the eve of the rallies on February 10, eight prominent opposition figures held a joint forum, signaling the emergence of a leadership council in the diaspora to campaign for international support in favor of Iran’s protest movement. They also called for support from democratic countries to change the regime in Iran and establish democracy.