Fresh antiregime rallies took place Wednesday night in the Iranian capital Tehran as people gathered outside the home of one of the protesters killed by the Islamic Republic.
A large crowd of Tehran residents staged a demonstration in the Shahre-Ziba neighborhood, on the birthday anniversary of Hamidreza Rouhi who was killed by the security forces’ live fire on protesters on November 18, 2022. Scenes in the streets were reminiscent of protests last year, invigorating activists.
Following the Wednesday night protests, Hamidreza Rouhi’s father was reportedly arrested on Thursday.
The earlier nationwide protests gradually decreased as the regime killed more than 500 people arrested at least 20,000 others.
Rouhi, a university student who had a modeling career since childhood, was a popular teen with many friends in his neighborhood. He was killed during street protests after he was shot with three bullets.
Rouhi was one those protesters whose death touched a lot of Iranians, with his funeral procession and services for his third, seventh and 40th day after his death also morphed into big protest rallies.
The 40th day after someone’s death carries immense religious and cultural significance in Iran where memorials are held on days three, seven, and forty after death. There is also a historical parallel in the events leading to the 1979 revolution when 40th day memorials invigorated the revolutionaries and their protests.
On Wednesday night, people blocked Shahre-Ziba's main boulevard and set up fires in the middle of the street to stop the deployment of security forces. Soon after videos and news of the protests in the neighborhood surfaced on social media, people in some other parts of the city also held protest rallies, chanting the main slogans of the ‘Women, Life, Liberty’ movements as well as many directly against the regime’s ruler Ali Khamenei.
The rallies were the biggest in the new Iranian year – which started on March 21, indicating that the protest movement has not faded away, despite the propaganda by the authorities who had claimed “the riots” would not reoccur.
In addition to singing songs of the revolution and chanting slogans, women also removed their hijab and moved around bonefires during the Wednesday night gatherings, according to social media videos.
Since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was beaten to death by hijab enforcers in September 2022, sparking a nationwide revolt, the simple act of unveiling in public has become a common occurrence across Iran, and a thorn in the side of the regime hardliners who are pushing for stricter measures.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s assertion Tuesday that flouting hijab is “religiously and politically haram” has prompted officials to signal harsher crackdown on those who unveil in public.
Following Khamenei’s cue, the ministry of interior in its second statement on hijab within a week, alleged that the opposition to compulsory hijab was an enemy plot advanced by foreign intelligence services and the opposition outside Iran, who through social media are trying to use it to “create deep social divides and a divide between the people and the government.”
The unrest since Amini’s killing by the police has made it increasingly difficult to enforce the mandatory Islamic dress code which has become a symbol of opposition against clerical rule.