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Why Iran summoned the envoys of UK and Norway, and the ‘foreign hand’ claim behind hijab protests

Why is Iran blaming the US for the protests blazing across its cities? What has Elon Musk said he will do for the protests? We explain.

Kurdish women activists hold headscarfs and a portrait of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, with Arabic text that reads, "The woman is life, don't kill the life," during a protest against her death in Iran, at Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. (AP)

Iran summoned the envoys of Britain and Norway to lodge a protest against “hostile reporting” and “interference” in the hijab protests roiling the country, its state media IRNA reported on September 25 (Sunday).

Iran has called the agitations blazing across its cities “seditionist” and “supported by foreign powers”, especially the US.

What is the ‘foreign hand’ allegation in the hijab protests, and why were the envoys of Britain and Norway summoned? We explain.

Why Britain, Norway

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According to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, Britain’s Simon Sherclif was summoned in “response to the hostile reporting by Persian-language media based in London against Iran”.

“The director-general of Western Europe communicated Iran’s severe protest to the UK for its hosting of the media that have put provocation and invitation to turbulence and expansion of riots in Iran on top of their agenda. The director-general also emphasised that this is considered an interference in Iran’s internal affairs and a measure against Iran’s sovereignty,” the IRNA reported.

As protests spread in Iran, the regime has responded by cracking down on journalists and curbing the internet. Members of the Iranian diaspora, however, including media portals, have been amplifying the women that are publicly rejecting and burning their hijabs.

The Norwegian ambassador, Sigvald Hauge, was summoned over comments by the country’s Parliament speaker Masud Gharahkhani. Gharahkhani, who was born in Tehran, has been actively seeking support for Iran’s protesters on social media, urging people to “be their voice”.

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After the summons, he tweeted in Norwegian on Sunday, “I was born in Tehran. Norway is my country. Every single day I am grateful that I live in a country that is built on democracy, freedom, human rights and freedom of expression. These are the same values that young people are fighting for in Iran. If my parents had not made the choice to flee in 1987, I would have been one of those fighting with life in the streets.”

In June this year, Iran had summoned the Indian envoy over the Nupur Sharma Prophet remarks controversy.

Iran’s claims of a foreign hand

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Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Sunday (September 25) said the US was supporting “rioters in implementing their destabilisation project”.

“Peaceful protest is the right of every nation. However, the US involvement in Iran’s affairs and support to ‘rioters’ in implementing their destabilisation project is in clear conflict with Washington’s diplomatic messages to Iran regarding the necessity of a nuclear deal and establishing stability in the region,” Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying by Reuters.

According to another Reuters report, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, at the United Nations, called the spotlight on “double standards”, citing deaths in US police custody.

The protests in Iran have been sparked off by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody of the “morality police” for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly. Leaders across the world, including from the US, Germany, Australia, Israel, Chile, the European Union, etc. have voiced concern and support for the protesters.

The US has also sanctioned the morality police and is working to provide internet access to Iranians amid the crackdown.

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“We have sanctioned Iran’s Morality Police, the entity responsible for the arrest and death of Mahsa Amini, and designated seven other Iranian security officials responsible for suppressing non-violent protests,” US secretary of state Anthony Blinken tweeted last week.

The US is loosening sanctions to increase Iranians’ access to cloud-based services, so they can use VPNs and evade the internet restrictions their government is putting. Tesla chief Elon Musk has also said he will provide Starlink, his satellite broadband service, to Iranians.

First published on: 26-09-2022 at 05:20:17 pm
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