Iranian women’s remarkable role in the greatest upheaval in the country’s contemporary history
One of the most stunning moments of Iran’s contemporary history emerged on November 15, 2019. The protests took shape rapidly, with anti-regime chants rapidly radicalizing against the mullahs’ supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
Throngs of Iranian people, the army of the unemployed and hungry, and the army of suppressed women and youth who have nothing to lose but their chains, took to the streets to express their outrage over the three-fold hike in fuel prices.
Young people formed the nucleus of the protests and the state-run media acknowledged the Iranian women’s remarkable role as vanguards and leaders of the uprising.
They wrote women played a leading role in the cells of four or five people. They also encouraged people to join the protests.
The state-run Mashreqnews.com wrote on November 20, 2019, “Women had a remarkable role in the recent mischief. They had special role in various scenes in inciting the public to carry out acts against the establishment.”
The state-run Fars news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also wrote on November 20, 2019, “Some women played a pivotal role in leading the riots.” Fars added, “Women’s special role in running and leading the recent riots seemed remarkable. In numerous places particularly in Tehran suburbs, women who were apparently between 30 to 35 years old, had a special role in leading the riots… These women wore the same garbs, each had a different role; one filmed the riots, the other stopped the cars, and another one incited the people to join the ranks of riots…”
Outburst of protests in 200 cities
The protests rapidly spread to more than 200 cities in 29 provinces in just a few days.
The mullahs’ supreme leader Ali Khamenei weighed in on November 17. Calling the protesters “thugs” and “hooligans,” he ordered the security forces to open fire on unarmed and defenseless protesters. Snipers targeted protesters from rooftops, shooting them in the heads and chests, and slaughtering teenagers as young as 13 and 14. Plainclothes agents shot protesters at point blank range and struck the wounded with the axe. They deployed heavy machine guns, helicopters, and military tanks to crack down on the protests. And the clerical regime set a new record in crime against humanity.
At least 1,500 people, including 400 women, were killed. Some 12,000 have been arrested.
The regime shut down the internet and blocked mobile networks to prevent leaking of the images of its bloody crackdown to the world.
This shocking crackdown against defenseless people in Iran is one of the most horrific crimes of the 21st century and by any measure amounts to a manifest crime against humanity.
Shoot-to-kill policy, a crime against humanity
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed alarm, adding the footages they received showed, “security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill. These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.”
She also said her office had received information partially corroborating reports that Iranian security forces used machine guns against protesters in Jarahi Square in Mahshahr – including against people fleeing the area and people hiding in nearby reed-beds – resulting in at least 23 people killed, and possibly many more.
Remarks made by regime officials and authorities seemed to corroborate these crimes against humanity.
Amnesty International also verified this “shoot-to-kill policy” in a report it published on May 20, 2020.
“The fact that so many people were shot while posing no threat whatsoever shows the sheer ruthlessness of the security forces’ unlawful killing spree,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
According to information gathered by Amnesty International, in all but four cases the victims were shot dead by Iranian security forces – including members of the Revolutionary Guards, paramilitary Bassij forces and the police – firing live ammunition, often at the head or torso, indicating that they were shooting to kill.
Of the remaining four victims, two reportedly suffered fatal head injuries after being beaten by members of the security forces. Another two were recorded as having suffocated from tear gas.