Iran plagued by protests as regional tensions rise

Iran saw days of violent protests last week in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody after being detained for being “improperly dressed”. Dozens, including security personnel, have reportedly died in what Iranian state media described as a “foreign-sponsored riot”.

US officials have expressed support for the protesters, but Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will “resolutely” deal with ongoing demonstrations in several Iranian cities as of Sept. 25. I swore.

Mehmet Koc, a senior expert at the Ankara-based Center for Iranian Studies, attributed the protests to “long-simmering resentment against Iran’s compulsory head scarf-wearing practice and the death of Mahsa Amini. arrived,” he said.

“But it’s possible that outside forces want to take advantage of the crisis,” Koch told the Epoch Times.
Notably, the protests first broke out in earnest on the same day Iran formally joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a formidable bloc of Eurasian nations led by Russia and China.

death stirs rage

On September 13, Amini was detained in Tehran for not adhering to Iran’s strict dress code for Muslim women. Three days later she died in hospital while she was still in police custody.

Authorities claim Amini died of sudden heart failure, but her family says they have evidence that she was physically abused at the hands of police, which led to her death.

On September 16, thousands of people stormed the streets of the capital to protest both Amini’s death and Iran’s conservative restrictions on dress.

Protests quickly spread to other cities such as Isfahan, Tabriz and Mashhad, despite promises by authorities to investigate the incident. In some cases, angry protesters attacked and set fire to police stations and vehicles.

At least 35 people, including security personnel, were killed in the riots, according to a recent tally by official Iranian sources. However, some independent commentators say the death toll is much higher.

The U.S. Treasury Department pledged on September 23 to expand the range of online services available in the country, amid reports that Internet access was cut off by Iranian authorities.
Undersecretary of the Treasury Wally Adiemo said Washington was “doubling down on support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people.”

The same day saw large-scale opposition demonstrations in several Iranian cities, with protesters defending Islamic cultural norms, expressing support for the government and blaming “foreign enemies” for the unrest. .

In televised comments, Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Bahidi said the anti-government protests had “nothing to do with Ms. Amini” and that her death was aimed at “wreaking havoc on the country.” claimed to be used by an “organized group” of

Epoch Times photo
Iranians march at a rally of hijab supporters in the capital Tehran on September 23, 2022. (AFP via Getty Images)

geopolitical restructuring

Amini’s death and protests began on September 16, the same day Iran joined the SCO at the Basin Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

The SCO summit in Samarkand, attended by leaders of major Eurasian countries, including Russia and China, was widely perceived as a direct challenge to Western influence in the region.

Now the world’s largest regional bloc, the SCO was originally established by Moscow and Beijing in 2001 to serve as a bulwark against US global hegemony.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with fellow Eurasian leaders at the summit, welcoming the emergence of a “new center of power” capable of confronting Western influence.

Kok believes Iran, which has long been subject to US sanctions, will benefit from joining the organization.

“First, it would help offset Washington’s efforts to isolate Iran internationally,” he said. “It will also strengthen the country’s ability to deal with the impact of US sanctions.”

Joining the SCO is also expected to strengthen ties between Iran and Russia, both of which firmly support the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

In particular, on September 23, officials in Kyiv announced plans to downgrade diplomatic ties between Ukraine and Tehran over Tehran’s alleged decision to supply Russia with advanced drones.

In Samarkand, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the world is now witnessing a geopolitical restructuring “unprecedented in 100 years.” He also warned that “outside forces” are trying to instigate a “color revolution” in SCO member states.

Kok dismissed suggestions that foreign forces were “organizing and carrying out” the ongoing protests in Iran.

“But it is possible that outside forces want to take advantage of the crisis,” he said, adding that the protests “came at a time when Iran was unwilling to yield in its negotiations with the West on its nuclear program. ” he pointed out.

Epoch Times photo
A boy rides his bicycle past a burnt-out car oil store in Batken, about 1000 kilometers from Bishkek, on September 22, 2022. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP via Getty Images)

regional unrest

Iran is not the only SCO member to experience tensions in the past two weeks.
On September 12, clashes erupted between Armenia and SCO member Azerbaijan, resulting in dozens of deaths on both sides. Two days after him, at least 100 people were killed in clashes between SCO members Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

According to Koch, the rapidly escalating rivalry between Russia and the collective West “could be a factor in the recent unrest in what is considered Russia’s backyard”.

“It is very likely that tensions in these regions will continue as a result of this ongoing power struggle,” he added.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Adam Morrow