US expands access to Internet services for Iranians amid growing unrest

An Iranian teenager rips off his turban before running behind a cleric in the capital, Tehran.

The incident, which was uploaded to social media, is part of a new tactic used by anti-government protesters in Iran.

Nationwide anti-government protests have erupted across the Islamic Republic following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died on September 16 shortly after being arrested for allegedly violating the hijab law on women’s clothing.

As authorities crack down on rallies in a deadly manner, some demonstrators have resorted to new tactics, including removing the turbans of Islamic clerics in the streets, to continue the months-long protests.

Many Iranians associate members of the clergy with Iran’s Islamist regime, which is blamed for repression and corruption in the country.

While some Iranians see the “turban shedding” as an act of resistance, others have expressed concern that low-level clerics who are not affiliated with the state could become victims of persecution and violence.

On November 10, MP Mohammad Taghi Naqd Ali called the new trend “a trick of the devil” and warned that the young protesters who threw away the clerics’ turbans were “playing with the lion’s tail”.

The state media recently reported the arrest of two people accused of tearing down the turbans of clerics.

Shadi Sadr, a London-based human rights lawyer, said the tactic was “brave and revolutionary”. Sadr, co-founder of the Justice for Iran legal group, told RFE/RL that the protesters were “humiliating” the clerics without resorting to violence. “They [targeting] The clerical turban, a symbol of crimes and corruption in the past 43 years, as well as the privileges enjoyed by clerics,” he said.

“There is no violence in this, and it also includes the mischief of the youth, which highlights the spirit of the revolution,” Sadr added, referring to the months-long protests that have posed the biggest threat to the establishment in recent years.

But Tehran-based journalist and former political prisoner Ahmad Zeidabadi said that some of the clerics targeted on the streets “could be critics or even victims.” [state] policies”.

“This phenomenon… mainly targets clerics who do not hold any public office,” he said. Twitteradding that high-ranking clerics in powerful positions rarely appear in public and are often protected by bodyguards.

Hojatulislam Ahmed Heydari, a reformist cleric who was jailed in the past for his support of the opposition Green Movement, warned that the new trend could damage “a good image”. [the] a protest movement against oppression and injustice”.

“You’re right to be angry at the turban wearers,” Heidari wrote on the news site. But he added that “those who are in power and who are your targets” are out of reach. According to him, most of the targeted clerics are “young and old” clerics who do not sit in “ivory towers”.

Attacks on clerics in Iran, especially those trying to enforce Islamic law in public, have increased even before the protests began, and many clerics have been forced to appear in public without their robes or turbans.

A cleric was reportedly hospitalized last week in Karaj, near Tehran, after he was injured during anti-government protests in the city. The hard-line Fars news agency claimed that protesters attacked the cleric with knives.

Hasan Fereshtian, a Paris-based Iranian cleric and researcher, said the trend of discarding the turban was the result of “repressed anger over the last four decades”.

He warned in a statement to RFE/RL’s Farda radio: “If this is to destroy the clergy, we may face the beginning of violence.” “In fact, clerics should be removed from power centers. But they should not be removed from society.”

Fereshtian, a student of the late dissident Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, said he hopes Iran will reach a point where “secular people can live peacefully with religious figures and women who choose to wear the hijab.”

Last year, regime supporters removed the turbans of clerics critical of the regime, including former interior minister Abdulla Nuri and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karrubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011 for protesting the re-election of former president Mahmoud in 2009. Ahmadinejad.

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