Yassamine Mather reports Kurdish towns and cities closed down
On February 22, a one-day general strike against the Iranian regime closed down Kurdish towns and cities. In Mahabad anti-government protestors torched a truck belonging to the Revolutionary Guards, who opened fire, wounding at least four people. There are reports of demonstrations and protests from Bukan, Sardasht, Sanandaj, Saqez, Marivan, Kermanshah and Kamyaran.
Previously, on Sunday February 20, thousands of Iranians in Tehran had joined protests on the seventh day of the ‘martyrdom’ of two students killed during the February 14 demonstrations. The regime had hoped to contain the opposition by isolating the leaders of the green movement. An iron fence was erected outside the entrance of Mir-Hossein Moussavi’s residence and his personal guards replaced by security forces loyal to the regime, suggesting that the ‘reformist’ figurehead is facing a long detention. Fellow prominent ‘reformist’ Mehdi Karroubi is also under house arrest.
However, the reality is that the movement acts independently of these ‘leaders’. For example, the evening before the February 20 demonstrations cries of “Allahu Akbar” came from rooftops all around Tehran and did not die down until dawn. On the Sunday morning, security forces and bassij militia were deployed throughout the capital. But despite the intimidation thousands of protestors showed up in the streets and main squares of the capital. In the early evening crowds gathered outside the main, state-owned radio and television channel and, showing their determination to bring down the entire regime headed by supreme leader Ali Khamenei, they shouted “Death to dictator” and “Khamenei must go”. There are short videos on the internet of crowds attacking the bassiji and plain-clothes security men who had been trying to break up the demonstrations. Similar protests were held in Shiraz (where one student was killed), as well as Isfahan, Tabriz, Mashhad and Rasht.
Meanwhile, workers at the Abadan oil refinery have continued their strike and occupation. As with many other groups of workers, they took action in response to the non-payment of wages - they have not been paid for the last six months. There have been clashes with security forces, but the sit-in and strike still continue, with the company blaming subcontractors and denying responsibility for the fact that their workers have received no wages.
Despite this, ayatollah Khamenei announced on February 4: “Based on reports that I have received, the country will be completely self-sufficient in the production of gasoline by February 11.” People across Iran facing increased prices across the board as a result of the removal of fuel subsidies might not believe him.
As in Libya, we could be witnessing the crumbling of the old power structure, with state officials and diplomats beginning to abandon the regime. In Italy, Ahmad Maleki, the head of Iran’s consular office in Milan, resigned his post in protest at his government’s “barbaric actions against the Iranian nation”. He told reporters there are “many others” in the Iranian foreign ministry who are unhappy with the government.