RFL/RE – Iranian journalist Keyvan Samimi, who was recently released from prison, says Iranians are poised to push further in their anti-government protests despite a brutal crackdown after months of unrest over a lack of freedoms and official interference in everyday life.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Samimi said Iranians appear to have come to the conclusion that the protest movement won’t be satisfied until there is real change, which will require gaining further momentum to push authorities aside.
“Society is in movement, and this movement flows under the skin of the city. The protests are not over and are quite likely to rise again if something unexpected happens,” the 73-year-old Samimi said.
Samimi was imprisoned at Tehran’s Evin prison in 2021 to serve a two-year sentence after being found guilty of “assembly and collusion against the state” relating to his attendance at a protest rally in front of parliament marking May Day in 2019.
In the interview, he said that after being released from prison, he observed that people have taken several steps forward in their protest movement.
Most importantly, he added, was that they are no longer afraid of the government and its security forces despite a crackdown on dissent that rights groups say has left more than 500 people dead since Iranians flocked to the streets to demonstrate their anger over the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
In December, Samimi reportedly issued a message from prison supporting the ongoing nationwide protests resulting from Amini’s death.
Samimi says now that despite government propaganda insinuating the unrest is mostly over, few people — even officials — believe that to be true.
Samimi, who was thought to be the oldest journalist jailed in Iran, also invited the opposition forces of the Islamic Republic to talk to each other and promote dialogue among themselves.
Rights groups say the government’s violent crackdown on the protests, which have included calls for Iran’s clerical leadership to step down, has resulted in the deaths of at 71 minors among the hundreds killed by security forces.