Maryam says she doesn’t want to fear Iran’s ayatollahs anymore and wipes tears from her eyes, saying she’s afraid for her mother and family as rioting continues to rock the her homeland.
After gas prices skyrocketed 300% Friday, internet access was blocked and expatriates’ fears for the safety of their families began to rise, said Maryam, who arrived in Canada eight months ago and lives in the Lower Mainland.
(Glacier Media is choosing to protect her identity for safety concerns).
Maryam said price increases led motorists to leave their cars in the streets in protest. Reports indicate a dozen people are dead and about 1,000 have been arrested.
She said her mother has implored her not to speak out, that she might not be able to return.
“I don’t want to come back to the country if it’s like that,” she said. People are “suffering in a poisoned environment,” the 30-something said.
However, she feels she has a duty to do so as those who remain cannot speak up. “The might be killed by the government,” she said.
All she asks is that people support ordinary Iranians.
Maryam said Iranians are sharing videos of the protests – replete with blocked streets, crowds and smoke from open fires – among themselves, afraid to tell the rets of the world for fear of reprisal.
“People are making fire on everything,” she said. “They put fire on the gas stations. They put fire on the police stations. They put fire on the banks because they have no money.”
With the internet blocked, Maryam said people cannot tell the world what is happening.
And, as demonstrations persisted, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Monday said it would, “confront the continuation of any insecurity and actions disturbing the people’s peace and calm in a revolutionary and decisive way.”
Ottawa has warned anyone considering visiting Iran to exercise high caution “due to crime, demonstrations, the regional threat of terrorism and the risk of arbitrary detention.”
Further, Ottawa said dual Canadian-Iranian citizens risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained. And, as Iran does not recognize dual nationality, Canadian officials in Iran might not be granted consular access to detained dual Canadian-Iranian citizens.
“Canadian-Iranian dual citizens should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Iran,” it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday condemned the violence, expressing concern about reported fatalities.
“The Islamic Republic must cease violence against its own people and should immediately restore the ability of all Iranians to access a free and open Internet,” he told Washington, D.C., media. “The world is watching.”
That’s not the line Tehran is taking, though.
Iran’s ambassador to the U.K., Hamid Baeidinejad, blamed the United States in a tweet.
“Amid US cruel sanctions with their impacts on daily economic lives of ordinary people, Iran’s government takes a very courageous decision to reform structure of economy,” Baeidinejad said. “This manifests the strong bond between state and people in Iran, a fact still overlooked by many in the West.”
Those sanctions are widely seen as crippling the Iranian economy and as a threat to the government.
Global rights group Amnesty International is now shining a spotlight on Iran.
“We’re horrified at reports that dozens of protesters have been killed in #Iran, hundreds injured & over 1000 arrested since Friday. We’re alarmed that authorities have shut down the internet to create an information blackout of their brutal crackdown,” Amnesty tweeted. “We’re investigating.”
While part of the gas price increases could be due to continuing U.S. sanctions against Iran, Maryam, who holds a master’s degree in engineering, believes the presence of a large number of ayatollahs – Muslin clerics – running the country and their need to support large families at home and abroad is fuelling the price increases.
“They are running out of money,” she said. “They want to put their hands in people’s pockets.”
Before 1979’s revolution, which brought Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ruled the country, living in ostentatious wealth.
Maryam said his was just one family whose lifestyle the country had to support. Now, it’s multiple mullahs headed by cleric and president Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ali Khamenei.