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Teen’s bravery offers glimmer of hope as violent crackdown on Iran protests continues

A 17-year-old girl dressed in sunshine yellow climbed on top of a car, and she threw her hands up in the air. Her fingers were extended to show V for victory. The crowd cheered loudly.

Sonia Sharifi was just released from the clutches Iranian detention.

This is the fourth month in which protests have been held in Iran. The violence and intimidation faced by those calling for revolution has reached its highest point since the beginning of the movement.

There are many risks involved. Some protestors have decided to leave their phones at home in order to minimize the severity of any arrest.


This could explain why there has been less video evidence from protests in the country over the past weeks.

Sky News video shows Sonia’s family and friends celebrating her homecoming after she was released from bail. To protect their identities, it is blurred.

Some people became so happy that they started to dance on the streets.

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According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, this teenager was taken from her grandmother’s home in November and beaten until she made a false confession. She admitted that she had written dangerous slogans and made Molotov cocktails.

Sky News monitored an encrypted messaging app that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards used to send messages accusing “hostile media” and “lying” about her arrest. They did not provide any evidence to support their claims.

The defiant pose of Sonia, which she displayed seemingly without fear of the authorities that detained her, quickly spread rapidly on social media around December.

Many Iranians used her image of bravery to express hope online at a time in which the state had executed two protesters, and more than 500 demonstrators had died.

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency, HRANA, 70 percent of the victims were children. According to the group’s 19 December figures, almost 20,000 people were arrested.

Despite the crackdown, authorities were unable to stop the spread of protests that have been taking place across the country over the past three months.

Sky News has located every protest that had 12 or more participants since 16 September. This data was provided by the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute and supported by the Institute for the Study of War.

The dots will be lighter or darker depending on how many people are present. Grey dots indicate protests where it is impossible to estimate the size of the crowd. CTP says their data is likely incomplete due to the difficulty of accessing information on Iran’s ground.

You can see the first wave of protests that started after the death Mahsa Ji, who was killed in custody for wearing her hijab (headcovering) “improperly”.

Continue reading:

Massive protests and attacks on government buildings – Online evidence shows what’s going on in Iran

Although it began as a women’s rights campaign, other voices joined the call for revolution. This army of ordinary people is driven by issues such as freedom, democracy, and economic stability.

This animation shows how widespread protests have been, with the Kurdish Province and capital Tehran serving as hot spots for the movement.

The majority of protests were between 12 and 1000 people. CTP logged around a dozen as well as over 1,000 people attending one demonstration.

Sky News spoke with Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history and director of University of St Andrews’ Institute for Iranian Studies. He said: “We are seeing strikes and other types of protest taking places. It is important to remember that they are difficult to suppress.

He said that two executions of protesters had “merely made the protesters more determined”.

“Protesters leave their phones at home to remain safe”

People have used their smartphones to take photos and videos of Iran. Independent and foreign media are effectively banned from reporting in Iran.

This vital information is now at risk because the consequences of being found with protest footage are becoming too much for some.

“People are being harassed for filming. Further harassment occurs if the footage is from protests that they have been arrested for. Mahsa Alimardani, an information rights researcher at Article 19 and the Oxford Internet Institute, says Mahsa Alimardani. Her research focuses on Iran’s access to online information.

“People who are out on the streets today often don’t take their phones with them to reduce that risk.

Ms Alimardani said that people have become more cautious since seeing others being pursued and penalised for footage. Others have been targeted or shot at because they held up their phones during protests.

This combined with continued severe internet access restrictions means that Iranians are faced with multiple challenges in trying to obtain evidence of the extent of the protests as well as the brutality of their crackdown to the international community.

Authorities have tried to restrict the Iranian population’s access to the internet with organizations such as Netblocks, an internet monitor and the Internet Outage Detection and Analysis project (IODA) at Georgia Institute of Technology reporting frequent outages.

As highlighted by the tweet’s red stripe, internet access in the country fell during Majidreza Rahnavard’s execution on 11/12/12.

Authorities are able target certain areas of the country as they can do so on 8/12 when internet access was cut for seven hours in Sanandaj, Kurdish region.

“Really, what we’re seeing is only the tip of an iceberg. It’s stuff that can slip through all the hurdles to get online and document,” Ms Alimardani explains.

The footage from Iran has been changing for those who are willing to take the risk. Ms Alimardani noticed that people are now taking greater precautions to conceal their identities when filming. She has seen people focusing only on arms and legs, avoiding faces completely, and filming in low lighting.

Video footage showing violent clashes, aggressive behaviour by the security forces is more common than in September and Oct. The evidence of injuries, even those suffered by persons who have been shot, are also being shared widely.

She explains that “we’re still seeing footage of protests in its various forms across Iran from large crowds and balcony and rooftop shouts”

Users are also documenting the content that refers to the crimes and murders committed by the Islamic Republic. This is the tragedy of the situation. The regime uses more violent and even genocidal strategies in order to suppress protests.

What’s next for the movement as the footage from Iran grows more violent and the protesters show little signs of stopping?

“It’s probably too early to call this a revolution,” Mr Ansari says, but people see the movement as revolutionary.

“The direction of travel can be determined.”


Data and Forensics

team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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