Following severe crackdowns in the first weeks of the protests and the large presence of security forces in the streets as well as widespread arrests, those protesting in the streets resorted to more resourceful methods as a way of not being identified by the security forces. Among the most prevalent methods, one can mention chanting “night slogans” from behind the windows of houses and from rooftops. Most of these night slogans have taken place in residential complexes, with women playing a central role. The videos recorded from behind the windows of the houses show that residents are chanting two-part slogans, the second part of which is repeated by fellow neighbors to create synergy and a sense of camaraderie in the neighborhood as well as exploring new ways of communicating with each other.
The singing of the song “For…”, the most recognizable song of this movement, in the middle of the night, while gathering in residential complexes, has been another innovative form of night protest, among Iranian citizens. Iranian cities such as Tehran (neighborhoods of Naziabad, Amirabad, Ekbatan, Shariati, TehranPars, Karun, Jayhun, Geisha, Shamsabad, Parand, Kashani, SattarKhan, North and South Shahin, Gheytariyeh, Moniriyeh, Abazar, and Shahrak Chitgar), Rasht, Kermanshah, Saqqez. , Tabriz, Kamiyaran, Bandar Abbas, Urmia, Sanandaj (beltway area 25 and Vakil), Karaj, Dezful, Yazd, Jolfa, Marivan, Shiraz, and Mashhad are among the cities where these night protests have occurred as described above.
At the same time newer forms of public protests emerged, Iran’s security began using new techniques to deal with people’s night protests. Sending drones to neighborhoods to identify pockets of protests, shining green floodlights over the windows, and spraying a colored “cross” on the entrance of houses and residential complexes that were suspected of starting night chants are new methods of clamping down on the protests. The security forces also tried to silence the chanters by their sheer presence in the neighborhoods and intimidate the protesters. In several instances, it is reported that they have openly threatened the protesters using “loudspeakers”
On October 28, 2202, the security agents who were deployed in the area of Chitgar town of Tehran, fired tear gas and stun grenades at the windows and threatened the protestors with “execution” through the loudspeaker. According to several reports published on social media, during the night crackdowns, in one case, the house of one of the residents in the Nazi Abad neighborhood of Tehran also caught fire because of a tear gas being thrown inside the house by the security agents. Firing shots into the air, using tear gas and stun grenades in the neighborhoods, and targeting the windows of some residential apartment buildings in some parts of Tehran and other Iranian cities have also been reported. These have become prevalent methods of neutralizing people’s nightly protests.
Additionally, on October 28 and 29, security agents with a greater presence than the previous nights in Ekbatan complex, broke doors, glass, security kiosks, elevators, etc., causing serious damage to residential complexes in this area. Some videos published on social media clearly show the high level of destruction in the lobbies of these buildings. Blood was splattered across the floor.
The story behind the tragic death of Asra Panahi, a schoolgirl, in Ardabil (a city in northwest Iran)
Asra Panahi Khanqah, child of Ahmad, born on March 5, 2007, died on Thursday, October 13, 2022, in “Imam Khomeini” hospital, Ardabil. The body of this 15-year-old student was buried on Friday, October 14, under the surveillance of the security forces in the cemetery of Jajin, Ardabil.
From the outset, both within the media and among civil activists there were conflicting narratives regarding the cause of her death. While local sources reported that Asra Panahi was killed at school in connection with nationwide protests, the Iranian government published reports denying such claims stating that Asra was not present at the school at the time of the incident and passed away due to “underlying illness.”
On Friday, October 14, the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers Union issued a controversial statement and announced: “On October 13, plainclothes forces attacked Shahed High School in Ardabil, and in this attack, a number of students were arrested, and one student, Asra Panahi, passed away”. From the start, the Ardabil Teachers Union together with the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers Union confirmed this news.
Ali Daei, an Iranian soccer legend, by posting a note on his Instagram page, re-confirmed the reports of the death due to the security forces storming Shahed High School. Mizan news agency (associated with Iran’s judiciary) called the killing of Asra Panahi “a fabrication”. Further claiming Ali Daei’s statement was simply “in keeping with the wave of fake news that is being propagated by the anti-revolutionary media.”
In this regard, HamMihan newspaper wrote an investigative piece quoting eyewitnesses stating that on Wednesday, October 12, the principals of some Ardabil schools decided to dispatch students to take part in a government-sanctioned rally in Aali Qapu Square and have them recite the government anthem (Hail to the Chief) without informing their parents in advance. Some students were not inclined to participate in such a rally. As a result, these students instead chanted protest slogans after being forced, which led the security forces to clash with them.
In this regard, the mother of an Ardabil student told HamMihan newspaper: “When the children were taken away and there was a lot of commotion, I scrambled to get myself quickly to Aali Qapu square. When I arrived, I saw some girls chanting anti-regime slogans. The square was packed with agents and patrols. Suddenly, the hell broke loose, and the security forces assaulted the children. I was able to forcibly pull my daughter out from the middle of the crowd. My child was completely terrified by the mayhem. She almost had a cardiac arrest. I took her home. Subsequently, I heard from other parents that the scared and beaten-up children were rounded up, boarded on the bus, and brought them back to school. There was another clash at the school between the security forces and the students. Some of the children became ill and an ambulance had to be called.”
From the beginning of the protests set off by the death of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, Ardabil was one of the cities that was rocked by the protests, but after the news of Asra Panahi’s death broke, the level of protests in this city skyrocketed remarkably. Since October 15th, Ardabil has been the scene of massive street protests regarding the death of Asra Panahi and the severe pushback of the security forces. These protests have led to the arrest of at least dozens of protesting citizens in this city.
The media closely affiliated with the Islamic Republic gave a different account of what had taken place and published several interviews that resembled “coerced confessions”. Rah Dana media network published a video of an interview with a person who introduced himself as Asra Panahi’s uncle. The interviewee claimed in this video: “Asra had a congenital heart problem and my niece’s chronic heart condition took a turn for the worse after her father passed away. On the night of the accident, she became ill and then died in the hospital.”
HRANA reported on September 12, 2022, that a 40-year-old prisoner named Ahmad Panahi Khaneqah, who had been imprisoned in Ardabil prison for four years on the charge of honor killing, had been executed. There is some evidence indicating that the executed person is the father of Asra Panahi.
In addition, Iran’s state-run television published another interview with a person in “Imam Khomeini” hospital, who showed a dossier and claimed: “Asra Panahi was transferred to this medical center with symptoms of vomiting, low blood pressure some sort of food poisoning, and passed away in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In this regard, Mahmoud Safari, the mayor of Ardabil, claimed that “Asra Panahi committed suicide with rice tablets” and Kazem Mousavi, the representative of Ardabil in Iran’s Islamic parliament, also claimed that “Asra Panahi was not even a student at all and added that “this person took her own life.”
In another related development, Ali Mohammadian Ardi, the president of Medical Sciences University and Health Services in Ardabil province, claimed in a statement: “Asra Panahi died due to heart and respiratory failure”.
Despite the spread of many conflicting narratives regarding the reasons behind the death of Asra Panahi, no credible evidence was ever presented by the government-affiliated media that she died due to suicide or any underlying illnesses.