Mahsa Amini’s death ‘broke camel’s back’, fueled rage against Iran regime: Analysis

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Mahsa Amini’s death was the spark that lit the angry fire of Iranians who have had enough of an oppressive regime that has failed to provide them with the basic means of a dignified life.

Analysts told Al Arabiya English that Amini’s death struck a raw nerve with the public and warned that the regime will only keep escalating its violent crackdown till the protests are quelled.

The protests began after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, died in the custody of the morality police after they detained her for allegedly not complying with the regime’s strict hijab rules in Tehran. Activists and protesters say Amini was beaten by police officers while in detention, causing serious injuries that led to her death. Police deny the allegations.

Since Amini’s death, protests have quickly escalated and turned political with demonstrations taking place country-wide. Protesters have been chanting against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the country’s highest authority, and calling for the downfall of the regime.

‘Straw that broke the camel’s back’

Amini’s death was not a singular outlier; she was the latest victim in a series of Iranians who lost their lives to an oppressive and abusive system that has no respect for women’s rights or civil liberties. The Iranian regime has long used the morality police as its attack dog, granting it free reign to terrorize citizens to adhere to a strict code dictated by the government elite.

“These protests are not just about the morality police,” Maral Karimi, author of ‘The Iranian Green Movement of 2009: Reverberating Echoes of Resistance,’ said.

“There have been a series of grievances over the years that continue remaining unmet, and that energy culminated in the killing of Mahsa Amini,” she told Al Arabiya English.

Karimi stressed that the protests have moved beyond mere anger at the “brutality of the morality police” and are focusing on a bigger message.

“One must understand that regulating and policing women, their bodies and their rights is tied to the core of the Islamic Republic. It’s one of the main pillars of the regime. Therefore, what the protesters truly want is the downfall of the regime,” she added.

Amini was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, analysts told Al Arabiya English.

Vahid Yucesoy, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Montreal, said: “Amini’s death was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as grievances against the Islamic Republic have been accumulating for years.”

These protests are against the regime as a whole, he said. “Iranians have realized that their demands would not be fulfilled as long as this regime is in power.”

The protests have become “the latest expression of the Iranian people’s larger political grievances against the regime in its entirety,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Al Arabiya English.

The Iranian regime has failed its people on so many levels that citizens feel that they “have their backs up against the wall.”

“The failure of domestic reform, the overpromise and under-delivering of diplomacy, as well as the deteriorating quality of life in Iran all coupled with the failure of the regime to take the public good and national interest into account has rendered much of [the] Iranian society to feel like they have their backs up against the wall and often quite literally nothing to lose,” Ben Taleblu said.

Regime crackdown

The regime responded in typical fashion with a violent crackdown on protesters, which led to the deaths of at least 76 people according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO. The authorities have also arrested hundreds of protesters in dozens of cities.

However, Yucesoy said that even if the regime successfully quells the protests, as it has done in the past, the people’s “anger will not subside.”

“If these protests are repressed, they will continue again, perhaps a few months later. Iranians are facing a regime that is not willing to make an iota of compromise. It is a regime unwilling to reform. And Iranians will rise at every single available opportunity to raise their demands,” he said.

Despite the violent crackdown by the regime, the protests have continued for more than 10 days, growing in size and geographic distribution every day.

Analysts believe the regime will only become more brutal to quash the protests.

“The Iranian government has the power to eventually crush the demonstrators, but a lot depends on having a consensus among the elite and having the full support of the security services,” Daniel Byman, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy told Al Arabiya English.

He added: “The demonstrations, impressively, have lasted despite tremendous pressure, but the regime is likely to step up its use of force in the coming days. I believe it will not hesitate to kill and imprison on a much larger scale if it deems it necessary to survive.”

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