Iran has been plagued with nationwide protests since last December as its citizens continue to demand fundamental rights from the government. Recently, Iran has banned the use of Telegram — a secure messaging app — to block communication and collaboration efforts by protesters. This has led to activists relying on more creative methods to get their message across.
One method has been to write messages of dissent on rial [Iranian currency] which effectively “puts a message of protest in everyone’s pocket,” according to one activist. Messages like; “Unity, Brotherhood, Freedom,” and “Down with dictatorship” have shown up on Iranian bills across social media sites. The movement began less than 24 hours after Iran officially blocked Telegram. Along with the bank notes and strikes, protesters are displaying empty tablecloths in public as a sign that they cannot provide for their families; these are paired with signs stating, “I am a kolbars” and “No bread dad” to drive the message home.
The messages are referencing the recent increase in protests occurring in Iraqi Kurdistan. Some local business owners have closed their shops and companies in defiance of the recent government move to shut down many of the unofficial border crossings in the northern part of the autonomous region; a move that severely restricts trade flow for small businesses. It has put several people out of business and is creating inflated prices throughout the bazaars.
Women have extremely restricted rights in Iran and protesters in the past have been heavily persecuted. For a time, Iranian women were standing in populated spaces and removing their Hijab in defiance. A recent move by female Iranian activists in Tehran had them wearing men’s clothing while sporting fake beards to get into a sports stadium to watch a soccer match, an event that women are banned from attending in Iran. Activist Masih Alinejad tweeted, “When bad laws ban women from entering stadiums, women will not wait for the law 2 be changed. They will break the bad law,” after the photos of them began circulating on social media. Activist and singer Melody Safavi said, “I am very proud of them and impressed that they can be so fearless, because it is a huge risk that they do that.”
Iranian authorities have made several arrests since the beginning of the nationwide protests. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei later said, “A country’s workforce is its biggest capital. You make up Iran’s workforce: the laborers, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers and all those working in different sectors. The country’s workforce has such great value; and the working class is part of this great value and capital,” in a public statement.
Featured Image Courtesy of Fars News Agency [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons