On Monday, Iranian authorities rerouted a flight bound for Dubai to Kish Island in the Persian Gulf for the removal of passengers Mona Farokhazari and Noora Daei, the wife and daughter of Iranian football legend Ali Daei. Both wife and daughter were transported back to Tehran without facing arrest. Iranian authorities cited a travel ban on Farokhazari as the reason for the removal, but passport control had permitted both mother and daughter to board the plane without objection. The targeting of the Daei family reflects the arbitrary, unlawful ways in which the regime reacts to anyone it has deemed a threat.
Mr. Daei has repeatedly used his celebrity platform to call out the government of Iran, which is facing both domestic crisis and international criticism due to its response to ongoing protests. (According to Al Jazeera, the Iranian rial traded at 315,000 to one U.S. dollar when protests began in September and had sunk to 430,000 to one U.S. dollar by Thursday.) After declining to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Daei cited “These days when most of us can’t feel okay…” as his reason for turning down the F.I.F.A. invitation. On September 16th, Daei posted an image in honor of Mahsa Amini (whose death at the regime’s hands sparked the protests) with the comment, “What did you bring to this land? My daughter asks what happened. What answer do I have? For what sin?” The post received nearly 1.9 million likes.
“Instead of repression, violence, and arresting the Iranian people, solve their problems,” reads one Daei tweet. According to Iranian rights group Human Rights Activists, two activists have been publicly executed, 507 protestors have been killed, and more than 18,500 have been arrested, but demonstrations have continued across the country for more than three months. Non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council think-tank Sina Azodi told Al Jazeera that he doesn’t believe the demonstrations will end any time soon. “The protests will continue in one way or another,” he said, “because the Iranian government has failed to address the [protests’] root cause.”
“These are primarily very, very young people,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based Quincy Institute. “A younger generation who have apparently completely lost faith that this Islamic Republic can be reformed.”
Their demographic is what differentiates this year’s protests from those of the past, says Peyman Asadezade of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East initiative. “These terrorists [the Iranian police] think that our generation is the previous generation,” one protestor from Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology told C.N.N. “We are not. Let me assure you.” Apart from the central role of youth and women, Asadezade emphasizes the importance of the coalitions this protest has built, noting “strong support from public figures, the presence of a cross-class alliance, and the participation of large and small cities.”
53-year-old Ali Daei demonstrates that, while the demonstrations are rooted in younger generations, opposition is widespread, expanding beyond reductionary slices of age, class, and gender. People from all walks of life identify with the movement.
The unification of Iranian citizens across demographic lines presents a complex challenge for the Iranian regime. Iran’s dominant conservative establishment has the military force to squash physical demonstrations and has been putting down protests since 1979, but social media has proven to be harder to tame. Today’s outcries must extend beyond mass crowds and social media posts – they must be paired with a political roadmap. A framework for transition and new political organization is crucial to ensuring tangible action. Identifying and supporting a coherent, viable, and modern direction for the political system is the only way to actualize reform.
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