The United States and its allies fight to support protesters in a watershed moment for Iran

The United States and its allies fight to support protesters in a watershed moment for Iran

The United States, its allies and individuals around the world are fighting to support protesters in Iran in what observers say is a watershed moment that could tip the scales for regime change in Tehran.

President Biden said in early November that “we are going to liberate Iran. They will soon be released.

But outside experts say the US policy of diplomacy with Tehran over its nuclear program, and disunity inside and outside Iran, put the favor in the hands of the country’s current government. .

“The problem is not only the foreign policy decisions of the United States. There is no united front at the end of the protest movement, there is no leadership,” said Ceng Sagnic, chief analyst of TAM-C Solutions, a multinational private intelligence company.

Iranian leaders have attempted to brutally suppress demonstrators who initially took to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, after she was killed in police custody by the country’s “morality police”. Amini was arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf incorrectly.

Since then, protests have grown to include calls for the downfall of the country’s Islamic rulers.

At least 14,000 people were reportedly arrested and hundreds died in the protests, including dozens of children. The youngest victim is said to be nine years old.

“The Iranian government and the regime as a whole have the potential power to suppress the protest movement,” Sagnic said.

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley reacted to a recent CNN investigation saying it documented “unspeakable acts of sexual violence committed by Iranian officials in detention facilities.”

“It is a reminder of what is at stake for the Iranian people – and how far the regime will go in its futile attempt to silence dissent,” he added. he tweeted.

The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have imposed sanctions on individuals and entities they have identified as responsible for the violent crackdown on protesters. They have sought to ease internet access restrictions to help protesters whose service has been cut.

United Nations member states are seeking ways to condemn and isolate the Islamic Republic, whose ruling government came to power in 1979 following a revolution.

Outside of Iran, individuals are working to maintain support for protesters around the world.

Iran’s national football team remained silent as its national anthem played during the World Cup in Qatar, widely seen as a sign of support for the protesters. Solidarity protests in Berlin, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, last month brought together tens of thousands of members of the Iranian diaspora and their supporters.

Shayda Gangi, an Iranian-American living in DC, helped launch an exhibit in Georgetown featuring protest art created over the past two months in an effort to keep the Iranian people’s struggle in focus.

“All of these papers being written, all of the people who come to these exhibitions and present this work, are so important and doing what they’re supposed to do, which is to raise awareness and keep the spotlight on the ‘Iran,” she told The Hill. .

The exhibition, which ran for three days, featured more than 100 pieces by artists from around the world, including Iranians living abroad, Italian and Israeli artists, and at least one artist from inside the Iran, which sent its work in the utmost secrecy, quickly suppressing communication and even blocking the organizers at one point as a security measure, Gangi said.

“I tried to put myself in his shoes and think, ‘Would I do the same?'” Gangi said. “And I don’t know. She was scared and is in Iran, and it’s dangerous, but even with all that, she was so happy to contribute to this event, and to do what she could do and send her works to be exhibited.

Sherry Hakimi, an Iranian-American activist and founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization focused on gender equality, was one of five Iranian women invited to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and others senior State Department officials in October to offer their advice on how the United States could better support the protesters.

“I appreciate that senior American leaders have heeded the pleas made by Iranians and Iranian-Americans,” she told The Hill, but said governments needed to be more innovative in how they act. help the demonstrators.

“These are unprecedented times – this is the first revolution led by women – so facing the moment requires unprecedented measures.”

Hakimi said that in addition to sanctions and efforts to hold the Islamic Republic accountable to the United Nations, countries should focus on providing medical assistance, as injured protesters risk being arrested if they seek treatment in a hospital.

“I want to see more healthcare-focused aid sent to Iran, whether through the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or some other organization or mechanism. There are parts of Iran where people can no longer seek treatment, because the regime has made it impossible – either the hospitals don’t treat them, or if they go to the hospital, they risk be arrested, which makes matters worse,” she added. said.

“To me, that seems like one of the most basic things.”

Human rights groups and news reports have documented accounts by protesters that they avoid hospitals for fear of being arrested by security forces, and that the Iranian government is using ambulances to infiltrate protests and detain protesters.

The danger to protesters seeking medical help was echoed by Cameron Khansarinia, policy director of the nonprofit and nonpartisan National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), which also helped sponsor the exhibit. art in Georgetown.

“Protesting in Iran is not like protesting in any other country,” he said, referring to extreme tactics of targeting protesters, use of live ammunition, detentions, allegations of torture and murder.

NUFDI is advocating that the United States and other governments consider establishing a “strike fund” to distribute frozen Islamic Republic assets overseas among protesters whose livelihoods are threatened by the government.

“So providing at least a modicum of financial support to enable these workers to go on strike and to enable their families to have bread at the end of the day…are very concrete ways in which a foreign government could empower the people of Iran,” he said, calling on governments to devise a “mechanism” to provide this money.

Khansarinia, like others interviewed for this article, described the protests as unprecedented for their massive scale in the face of extreme violence by security authorities.

The Norwegian-based Iranian human rights organization documented at least 416 people killed, including 51 children. The rights group also points to the government “systematically and disproportionately” targeting minorities in Iran, particularly in the “Baluch and Kurdish ethnic areas”.

The tactic is intended to seek to delegitimize the protests as an ethnic separatist movement, private intelligence analyst Sagnic said.

“Increasing oppression in Kurdish areas, violent tactics, hitting Kurdish peshmerga bases in Iraq, trying to make it more of an ethnic issue, something that separates Kurdish groups from the rest of Iran, which is a successful tactic, to be honest,” he said.

Gangi, who helped organize the Georgetown art exhibit, said she felt this time was different because of the scale of support from the international community.

“This is by far, from my personal experience after these things over the years, this is the first time I’ve seen so much support from not just the Iranian community and not just Iran, but the global community,” she said.

“With what they’re doing in Iran, with the internet shutdowns and all the violence, what we see outside is just a small percentage of what’s going on there. I would really ask everyone to keep doing what they are doing and keep the light on Iran.

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