Anti-government protests that erupted in Iran at the end of December have lead to the arrests of an estimated 3,700 people and the deaths of at least 21. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Iran to demonstrate against corruption, unemployment and the struggling economy.

These are the largest protests seen in Iran since the Green Movement in 2009. Unlike the 2009 protests, the current protests spread throughout the country, in large cities as well as smaller scale protests in poorer areas of the country. The origin of the protests is unknown, as are its leaders.

Even with restricted social media access, videos of the protests were still widely circulated and shared. The videos and pictures showed that some of the protesters were calling for the country’s religious hardliners to step down. One of the most widely shared and talked about images on social media was a picture of a woman breaking Iranian dress code by taking off her scarf and waving it on a stick in the middle of a crowded street as an act of defiance against strict Islamic rule. The popular image was posted on social media a few days before the protests began but became the symbol and the face of the protests.

Last month, police in Tehran, Iran’s largest city, said they would no longer arrest women for not wearing a headscarf, but rather force them to attend classes where they will “educate them” on the importance of following the Islamic code.

Many Iranian women are taking part in the current protests and are boldly speaking out against the strict religions rules in Iran that continually oppress them.   Although women’s activism in the current protests captured the media’s attention, Iranian women’s activism is not new and can be traced back to the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

The government is claiming that the protests are dwindling, though that is largely due to the fact that the government has blocked popular messaging apps that were being used to spread word of the movement.

News Sources: CNN 1/3/18, 1/9/18; Washington Examiner 1/2/2018; BBC 1/4/18; NBC News 1/2/18; Time 1/9/18; Newsweek 12/29/17

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