The center of Tehran was prepared for a battle yesterday, the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Jina Amini. Or so it seemed from the deployment of security forces throughout different sectors of the city, especially in the central Enqelab (Revolution) avenue and square where motorcycles and uniformed men were lined up side by side waiting to enter. in action. There were special forces, basijis or paramilitaries dressed as soldiers, police with their helmets on as if they were going to the front, and dozens of men in civilian clothes searching for people who were trying to gather together.
In front of them were a few solitary women who – in some cases – challenged them with their veils down and dozens of cars that, as usually happens in protests, tried to show solidarity by congesting strategic places and honking their horns when they could. But it was not like that yesterday, or at least not in this place, as the motorized forces pushed their way through them and pressured them to continue on their way.
This security deployment was repeated in other towns in Iran, but especially in Kurdistan where for weeks the authorities had tried to close any possibility of mobilization or protest. Kurdish human rights organizations have been denouncing for days the heavy deployment of security forces both in Saqez, the city of Mahsa Jina Amini, and in other towns in this region that was the scene of clashes last year.
Dozens of people were killed, thousands were injured, and hundreds more had to flee regime persecution to neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan.
For decades, the Kurds, like other minorities such as the Baloch in the south of the country, have denounced the state's neglect and repression. The death of Mahsa, who died while she was detained by the morality police, was the trigger for expressing the anger accumulated for decades. Although the protests spread, Kurdistan was the heart of the mobilizations.
The routes between some towns in Kurdistan were closed yesterday under the excuse of repair work and many businesses were on strike. It was obvious to the inhabitants of the region that it was an attempt to prevent them from participating in the planned ceremony to remember Masha at the Saqez cemetery. One of the largest mobilizations that took place last year was on the way to the cemetery on the fortieth day after the death of the 22-year-old girl. Thousands of people came there and the photos went around the world.
Yesterday morning it was also learned that the security forces had detained Masha's father, who was released hours later. The order would have been to stop any type of ceremony. Information coming from Saqez spoke of the security forces not letting the family leave the house. Additionally, the authorities lowered the internet speed in the area to prevent any transmission of videos or photos. Some testimonies claimed that even normal calls were constantly dropped.
The preparations of the Islamic Republic to avoid any mobilization on this anniversary date back to weeks ago when they began to arrest journalists, activists and relatives of people who died a year ago. The authorities' objective has always been the same: to prevent the resurgence of protests. Yesterday it was known, for example, that the grave of Nika, a 16-year-old girl who participated in the protests, was damaged.
The anniversary of Mahsa's death marks the beginning of a chain of commemorations that represent a great challenge for the authorities. Yesterday was a national holiday and the streets were empty. It is added that universities start classes in just a week. So the great challenge will be in the coming days, when the cities return to normal, including academic life.
Yesterday, as night fell, videos began to emerge from Tehran and other cities in the country such as Mashad, the second largest in population, where it was seen that groups of people had managed to group together while walking through the streets. On each occasion they were seen being followed by security forces who often shot into the air.