Iran is celebrating the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution these days. In early 1979, the Shah’s power was overthrown. At the same time, the disgraced Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to his homeland, laying the foundation for the power of the ayatollahs. He was Iran’s supreme leader for over 10 years.
The Islamic Republic celebrates the 44th anniversary of the revolution amid protests. They began in September in Tehran. The reason was the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She was detained by the vice police on charges of wearing the hijab incorrectly. Amini was taken from the police station to the hospital, where she died a few days later. The protesters believe that the cause of her death was a beating by law enforcement officers.
Soon, street performances began to take place in other cities of Iran. People came out with slogans against police violence, against the struggle of the Iranian authorities with dissent, for the democratization of the country and for the overthrow of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, one of Ruhollah Khomeini’s closest associates.
The protests were brutally suppressed. According to human rights activists, more than 600 demonstrators were killed during the mass actions, about 20 thousand people were taken into custody.
Pro-government media noted that the protests began to subside after the first executions became known. But Iranian activists claim that only the form of actions, the demands of the protesters have changed, depending on the region.
Tabriz, a city in the north-east of the country and the cultural and historical center of the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan, in October-November last year was one of the main centers of anti-government protests, mostly by youth. Ethnic Azerbaijanis live in this province of Iran (according to various estimates, there are from 18 to 25 million of them in the country).
On the streets of Tabriz, actions were held almost daily calling for the creation of an independent South Azerbaijan and criticizing the theocratic regime. The authorities, according to eyewitnesses, made great efforts to suppress the protest wave. The central districts of Tabriz, administrative and public buildings and educational institutions are now controlled by reinforced patrols – including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Shortly before Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s speech on the 44th anniversary of the revolution on February 11 in Tabriz, leaflets with the flag of South Azerbaijan and calls for the separation of the region from the Islamic Republic began to appear every night on administrative buildings.
According to Tabriz activists, law enforcement officers are trying to track down the distributors of leaflets, but so far no one has been detained. Patrols try to rip off all the leaflets pasted during the night by morning, but a day later they appear in other places.
The Iranian authorities traditionally blame representatives of foreign states for the protests, primarily Israel, with which relations have escalated again after a drone attack on a military facility in Isfahan. The Iranian authorities also believe that Israeli special services are actively working in the Islamic Republic, and in particular in Tabriz.
In the case of Tabriz, the Iranian authorities also criticize neighboring Azerbaijan. Tehran considered that Baku was interfering in the affairs of the border region and supporting separatist sentiments. A rally organized by the authorities was held in the Iranian capital, the participants of which accused Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of oppressing believers and organizing a “slander campaign” in the media against Iran.
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