Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Independent

He has spent the last 25 years of his life in devotion to Islam and the values of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is a member of a “hayat”, one of the network of neighbourhood religious committees that organises regular mourning ceremonies to commemorate Imam Hossein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad and a key figure in Iran’s majority Shia faith.

But over the last five weeks he has had a crisis of conscience watching Iran unravel in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality protest and the subsequent waves of protest.

“Oppression is oppression, whether America does it, Israel does it, or the Islamic Republic does it,” Vahid Khoramian, an Iranian engineer and social media personality, said during a recent public discussion on Twitter, as thousands tuned in. “And what I have learned in the ‘hayat’ over the last 25 years is to stand against oppression, not with the oppressor.”

A significant bulk of Iran’s religious conservatives and hardliners are standing by the regime. But the death of Amini and the government’s handling of it and its aftermath has prompted significant dissent within the conservative camp. Few if any senior officials have endorsed the protests, like some did during Iran’s 2009 uprising. But some have publicly questioned enforcement of the mandatory hijab law that prompted Amini’s arrest and the ire of Iranian women.

Beyond the political elite, there has been even more dissent and disgust. “The conservative guys are saying that these people, with their actions, they’ve humiliated us as well,” says Khoramian, who said he had spoken with dozens of “hayat” members since the uprising.  “They say, ‘how do we defend this?’”

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