Twenty thousand arrests and 400 deaths: what has changed in Iran one month after protests broke out
Following is the translation of the interview with Ms. Elham Zanjani of the NCRI Women’s Committee published by the Fanpage.it on October 17, 2022.
Fanpage.it’s interview with Elham Zanjani of the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, one month after the outbreak of protests over the death of Mahsa Amini: “According to our numbers, over 400 people killed, including 23 minors. Four weeks later, the most important social change is that people are no longer afraid to publicly express their disgust and hatred toward the ruling regime.”
Edited by Ida Artiaco
“In one month of protests about 20,000 people were arrested and 400 killed, including 23 minors. Women continue to demonstrate courageously but the international community should do more to bring the (Iranian regime’s) leaders, Khamenei and Raisi, to justice.”
Elham Zanjani is a member of the NCRI Women’s Committee, the committee of women from Iran’s National Council of Resistance, who from abroad help Iranian women defend their rights. Actively participating in meetings of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), they engage in a relentless battle against the Iranian regime’s misogyny.
At Fanpage.it, Zanjani took stock of the situation in the country a month after the protests erupted after Mahsa Amini’s death: it was last Sept. 16 when the 22-year-old died after she was arrested by the morality police because she was improperly veiled.
Almost a month after the protests began, what has changed in Iran?
Four weeks have passed since September 16, when the riots began. As you know, following the arrest and beating to death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman in Tehran by the so-called moral police, people and especially women took to the streets in protest. Cities across Iran joined the movement led by women protesting against the regime.
Now, four weeks later, the most important social change is that people are no longer afraid to publicly express their disgust and hatred toward the ruling regime.
Brave women have shown their willpower in the face of the repressive ones, and others have followed. Universities and even high schools have joined the movement. Unions and lawyers are next to join and strikes in the gas fields come in support. Even the official media are writing about social discontent and revolt.
What are the official numbers of the protests?
According to the data we have as of last Friday, more than 400 people have been killed. The People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition movement in the NCRI, has revealed the identities of 206 of the people killed by repressive forces. Names and available photographs were released by the Resistance’s television broadcasts and websites.
Amnesty International also announced that 23 minors were among the victims. More than 20,000 are feared to have been arrested.
We see brave women every day cutting their hair and going out on the streets protesting the regime. Can you explain what is their plight in Iran?
The movement started with women cutting off a lock of hair, with the act quickly becoming a symbol of protest against the mullahs’ regime, which since the day it came to power in 1979, has imposed forced veiling for women and brutal repression of those who do not.
The main demand from the first days of the protests is “regime change.” People in the streets are shouting “Down with (regime supreme leader) Khamenei,” “Down with (regime president) Raisi.” They have made their choice for regime change clear. I cannot see the Iranian people settling for anything less than regime change toward freedom and democracy. Contrary to what is sometimes portrayed, this is not a movement to give women the choice to dress, but to give the Iranian people the choice of life and basic freedoms.
We have seen that foreign nationals have also been arrested. Among them is Alessia Piperno from Italy. Do you know anything about her condition?
We don’t know specifically about her condition, but during its four decades of rule the mullahs’ regime has shown its hostage-taking skills. They want to make believe that the national uprising in more than 180 cities is the result of foreign intervention and planning to shoot innocent protesters. They arrest tourists and innocent foreigners to further blame their chaotic situation.
The best way to counter such blackmail is not to give in and maintain a firm principled stance and not to accept this disgusting practice.
What can the international community do to help Iranian protesters and stop femicide in Iran?
The international community can take several effective measures, apart from the strong words with which it has condemned the brutal suppression of the Iranian uprising by the security forces. Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI has expressed some of these steps on several occasions, such as recognizing the right of the Iranian people to self-defense and to fight to overthrow the religious dictatorship and establish democracy and human rights; taking urgent action to prevent further executions and killings of protesters; and securing the release of political prisoners; report to the UN Security Council the dossier of the Iranian regime’s massacres, including the September 2022 uprising and 4 decades of genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as the 1988 and 2019 massacres, and bring its leaders, Khamenei and Raisi, to justice.