Iran accused the US on Monday of exploiting protests over the death of a young woman in police custody to destabilise the country as the teachers’ union urged a national boycott of classes.
The teachers also called on other trade unionists, retired military personnel and artists to stand with “people seeking justice in these difficult but hopeful days”.
Mahsa Amini (22) was detained in Tehran two weeks ago for failing to cover her hair, bundled into a van, and taken to a police station where she collapsed into a coma and died on September 16th. The authorities said she suffered a heart attack; her family insisted she was struck on the head in the vehicle or at the station.
Despite the government’s use of loyalist counter-demonstrations, violent suppression and internet disruption, protests have continued across the country, even in the Shia holy city of Qom. About 60 people have been killed, including members of the security services, and hundreds injured and arrested.
There is risk of spillover in the northwest where Iraqi Kurds have accused Iranian troops of cross-border artillery and drone attacks.
The protests mark a new social era in Iran as they were launched by women over the compulsory hijab, or headscarf, before broadening into demands for freedom, democracy, jobs and respect for human rights. The protesters’ slogan, “When women lead, men don’t retreat”, could explain the longevity of this round of unrest.
Carnegie Endowment senior fellow Karim Sadjadpour wrote in the Washington Post that the protests were “led by the granddaughters against the grandfathers who have ruled their country for more than four decades”.
Since Iran’s rulers are in their 70s and 80s, he told CNN, it is unlikely they will capitulate over the hijab which, along with the slogans “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, have been “pillars” of the regime since 1979. Unless there is a serious rift among the elderly clerics or a coup by the military, the protests are not expected to bring down the theocracy. A military takeover could result in nationalist autocracy, he said.
The Iranian foreign ministry has called in the UK and Norwegian ambassadors to complain about their countries’ stances on the protests. Solidarity marches have been held in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Istanbul, Madrid, New York and Paris, and other cities.
Meanwhile, in an interview with US-based Al-Monitor website, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was ready to co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites. This could remove a remaining obstacle to revival of the 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions.
Iran still demands guarantees that sanctions would not be reimposed if the next US administration pulls out of the deal as did Donald Trump in 2018.