Iran protests pose new test for clerical leadership

Women setting their headscarves ablaze and chanting anti-regime slogans. Pictures of the leadership defaced and burned. Vehicles belonging to the security forces set on fire.

The images of the protests in Iran are indicative of the taboo-breaking nature of a movement that erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest by the notorious morality police.

A country where street dissent is tightly controlled, Iran has seen bursts of protest in recent years, notably the 2009 “Green Movement” that followed disputed elections, protests in November 2019 over fuel price rises, and rallies this year over the cost of living.

But analysts say that these protests present a new challenge to the Islamic system under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, as they are now taking place nationwide, have support across social classes and ethnic groups and were instigated by women.

Amini, also known by her Kurdish first name of Jhina, was visiting Tehran with her family last week when she was arrested for purportedly violating Iran’s strict dress code rules for women, in place since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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