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Iran’s protests show no signs of slowing as anger at ‘morality police’ mounts

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Iran on Monday accused the U.S. and Europe of directly fueling the deadly popular uprising that has gripped the Islamic republic over the past 10 days, while the West threatened new economic sanctions on Tehran and called for an immediate end to the “brutality” with which Iranian security forces are treating protesters.
The aging leaders of the theocratic regime have turned back repeated domestic challenges to their four-decade rule, but the persistence of the recent protests — and their quick links to economic and other grievances — could prove the most serious threat to the mullahs’ powers.
The massive demonstrations across Iran, sparked by the death earlier this month of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody of the country’s Islamist “morality police, have claimed hundreds of lives and led to thousands of arrests, according to anti-regime Iranian dissident organizations. Monday marked the 10th straight day of protests following the death of Amini, who was arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely in an incident that has struck a nerve across Iranian society and led to a near-unprecedented outcry against the country’s strict version of Islamic law.
It’s the first wave of major protests to hit Iran since hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi took office last year, and the largest since a nationwide uprising in 2019 that was sparked by a massive hike in fuel prices. The Raisi government was already dealing with an economic crisis, a COVID epidemic that hit Iran particularly hard, and the uncertain health of Supreme Leader Ayatollah ali Khamenei, the country’s ultimate political and religious authority and only the second cleric to hold the key post after the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 Iran revolution.
Anti-regime activists say it appears the Iranian government was caught off guard by the speed and intensity of the most recent demonstrations, though it’s not yet clear whether there is any genuine threat to the survival of the Raisi government.
Mr. Raisi has pledged a full investigation into the circumstances behind Amini’s death, which officials claimed was the result of a  pre-existing heart condition issue while in custody — a story that was already widely discredited before photos showing the victim’s apparently battered face were made public.
The protests also are driving an even deeper wedge between Iran and the West even as the two sides negotiate to revive a 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program.

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