Iran’s Crackdown on Headscarf Protests Escalates: University Purges and Widespread Unrest Spark International Concern
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s government is facing mounting criticism as it intensifies its crackdown on protests against the mandatory headscarf law. Despite the authorities’ attempts to suppress dissent and prevent further unrest, the death of Mahsa Amini last year continues to reverberate throughout the country. In response to the increasing crackdown, some women are now deciding to go without the headscarf, or hijab.
The demonstrations triggered by Mahsa Amini’s arrest represented one of the biggest challenges to the Iranian theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Following her arrest by the morality police allegedly over the hijab, over 500 people were killed and more than 22,000 detained during a subsequent security force crackdown.
The Iranian government, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has blamed the West for instigating the unrest without providing any evidence. However, the protests were fueled by widespread economic hardships following the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and the reimposition of Western sanctions. High inflation rates, a plummeting currency, and rising unemployment have left many Iranians struggling to make ends meet.
The protests last year showcased the participation of numerous young people, prompting authorities to shift their focus towards universities. In the past year, hundreds of students have faced disciplinary panels, and at least 110 university professors and lecturers have been fired or temporarily suspended. The purges have primarily targeted schools in Tehran, including Tehran Azad University, Tehran University, and Tehran Medical University. The dismissals have drawn criticism from former President Hassan Rouhani, who played a key role in negotiating the nuclear deal.
However, some hardliners have defended the purge, accusing the professors of having ethics problems. A hardline newspaper, Kayhan, directly linked the dismissals to the protests, arguing against allowing anyone to propagate against the system under foreign direction.
These actions by the Iranian government have heightened concerns and prompted international pressure. Independent United Nations experts have warned that the repression of women’s rights is disempowering and entrenches gender discrimination. Furthermore, as the anniversary of the protests approaches, activists report an increase in the number of people being questioned and detained by security forces.
The government’s attempts to downplay the anniversary are evident. President Ebrahim Raisi and state-run media have avoided mentioning Mahsa Amini’s name or the demonstrations. However, on the streets of Tehran, an air of dissent prevails, with individuals predicting a more significant response from students who view attempts to suppress the protests as futile.
As tensions rise within Iran, the international community continues to closely monitor the situation. The Iranian government’s crackdown on headscarf protests and university purges has ignited widespread concern and calls for respect for human rights. While the authorities attempt to suppress dissent, the resilience and determination of the Iranian people remain evident. The world is watching as the anniversary of the protests approaches, waiting to see how events will unfold in the face of mounting pressures and increasing repression.