The Gregorian year 2022 has come to its inevitable close and as we look forward to a productive, creative, prosperous and most of all, healthy 2023, it is traditional to offer New Year’s greetings. The New Year is an occasion and a time of reflection on events, promises made and promises broken. It is a time to remember.
One of my dearest memories is how, year after year, every Gregorian new year my mother would bestow a blessing on our family using a variation of wording she used during the weeks leading up to the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah. It is a tradition I now miss.
Despite the celebrations and religious implications of a New Year or Sylvester, a new year only naturally forces most people to consider the past year and look toward an even better future. So too, this year.
There were some very big events that took place over the course of 2022. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, COVID moving into a more manageable status and pivotal elections around the world.
Rather than the large and looming events, experience has taught me to focus on some of the small events that happen during the year and then monitor those events. These small events may very well be the tiny pebbles in still water that cause a ripple that expands and expands and changes the world.
The most significant event that changed the world: The death of Mahsa Amini in Iran
The most significant of these events happened on September 16, 2022. On that day, in a hospital in Tehran, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa (Jini) Amini died. She had been brought from an Iranian prison cell to the hospital after suffering, we are told, a stroke.
Amini had been arrested, interrogated and tortured by the Morality Police, also referred to as Iran’s Modesty Police. Her crime was violating the law requiring that all women and girls cover their hair in public.
To the credit of the Israeli press and especially The Jerusalem Post, this story was covered from the very beginning. Only recently, four months later, are we seeing coverage in the international media.
When news of Mahsa Amini’s death reached her hometown of Saqqez, in the Kurdish area of northwest Iran, several dozen people gathered to protest her death at the hands of the religious police.
This is key. Iranians poured out to condemn her death and protest the mistreatment of women in Iran. They were, in essence, unabashedly standing up to Iranian Islamic rule.
WHAT STARTED in Saqqez with only a few dozen people in mid-September has grown into protest after protest after protest in hundreds of Iranian cities and towns. The protests have spread throughout the entire country. Every day they gain more and more strength. Young people, cultural leaders, actors and athletes are joining this enormous movement.
When the Iranian World Cup team refused to sing their national anthem before a game, they were participating in an Amini-inspired protest. When a famous Iranian actress was arrested after posting her support for the protest movement on social media, she was participating in an Amini-inspired protest. And the protests go on.
Iran’s leadership is in the business of intimidation. They engage in public executions and rushed trials. Iranian leadership thrives on frightening the masses into conformity.
Accurate numbers of deaths and arrests are traditionally very hard to verify when it comes to Iran. The leadership controls the media. But today, Iranian leadership wants Iranians to know that at least 450 protesters have been killed in protests. And yet, the protests go on.
The Iranian regime has, until now, been remarkably subdued in its response. This sounds strange with all the arrests but I am speaking relative to Iran. We know that the regime can be brutal when putting down uprisings, arresting and killing by the thousands, including family members. For Iran, 450 killings are a drop in the bucket.
I am remembering a television advertisement that aired during Iran’s Green Revolution, which lasted from the Spring of 2009 to the Spring of 2010. Green in Iran did not symbolize the environment, it was a symbol of awakening. The period was also referred to as the Persian Awakening. Its objective was to oust then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the ad, the Iranian regime depicted hundreds of empty graves and pre-dug holes in the ground. The caption read: preparing your grave. There was no subtlety here. The regime was announcing those who challenge them will die.
Fast forward to 2022, almost 2023. Suppose these protests continue to grow and as of now, they show no signs of dissipating. In that case, the Mahsa Amini-Inspired Protests of 2022 may be signaling the early stages of an Iranian revolution. Realistically speaking, until now, there has been no sign of the leadership splintering or even flinching as a result of the massive protests.
Time and careful monitoring will tell. Here’s to 2023. Whatever it brings, may it be for the good.
The writer is a social and political commentator. Watch his TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS.