As people who live in the U.S., we have a role to play in stopping the harm caused by Washington — and helping the people of Iran breathe freer.

By Khury Petersen-Smith, Truthout

The uprising sweeping Iran in response to the murder of 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa (Jîna) Amini by the country’s morality police for “improper dress” is one of the truly monumental political events of our time. The upsurge began as an outraged response by women across Iran, who share the practically universal experience of harassment — and worse — by that police force. But it has quickly developed into something greater and deeper, with men taking up the cause of women’s rights, the whole protest wave taking up the slogan of the Kurdish freedom movement — “Women, Life, Freedom” — and huge crowds in the streets raising longstanding grievances with the Iranian government’s restrictions, repression and its presiding over a disastrous economy.

no war with iran banner from 2012 in san Francisco

Despite severe repression — with the state killing more than 200 people and hurting countless people with unbridled brutality and especially targeting Kurdish and Baloch areas — the uprisings are persisting and animating more sectors of Iranian society. Students and faculty at Tehran’s Sharif University faced the police in a defiant occupation and battle. Oil workers have gone on strike. And Iran’s adolescent girls have unleashed a new wave of revolt, chasing away administrators, taking over their schools, and — as with women of all ages — choosing to defy mandatory head covering.

As this revolt shakes Iran to its core, however, it has barely registered in the mainstream U.S. public. After initial quiet, Biden and other U.S. officials are making a calculated move to voice rhetorical support for the protests. This may undermine them, however, by giving the Iranian state an alibi to paint the revolts as machinations of Washington. The Biden administration did do something useful by finally heeding the years-long call to lift a sanction on telecommunications. On balance, however, Washington is discussing the escalation of its extensive, devastating sanctions regime — the very one responsible for Iran’s economic catastrophe. Indeed, think tanks in Washington that have long cultivated militarism against Iran are holding events to assess and take advantage of the new situation.

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