Ekbatan, in western Tehran, known for its resilience during last year’s protests, is facing increased security measures to prevent fresh unrest on the anniversary.
Security forces and their plainclothes agents made their initial appearance in Ekbatan last week. They have already established checkpoints within the extensive middle-class apartment complex and have stationed special forces on motorcycles at various locations in and around the compound, including outside a mega mall and a hospital.
In preparation for the upcoming anniversary of Mahsa (Jina) Amini’s death in custody of the morality police on September 16, 2022, residents have already begun nighttime chants from their windows. Slogans such as “Down with Khamenei,” “Down with the child-killing regime,” and “We will persist until the regime collapses, despite poverty, corruption, and high living costs,” have echoed through the neighborhood in recent days.
“The sound of many people chanting echoed in the space between the apartment blocks and really scared the security forces. On several occasions they shot pellets and even live bullets indiscriminately at windows to stop people chanting,” Tara, a twenty-five-year-old resident told Iran International in an online chat. “It didn’t work. We returned and gave them more nightmares every night.”
“Ekbatan was more active than other neighborhoods in Tehran because its structure and architecture made it difficult for security forces to control. Additionally, the residents’ community was and is much more tightly knit than in other neighborhoods,” Ashkan, a young man who manages Ekbatan protesters very popular Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram accounts told Iran International. “However, they have been familiarizing themselves with the terrain and become more dangerous,” he added.
Eight young men from Ekbatan who were accused of killing a member of the Basij militia during last year’s protests are still in prison and under great psychological and physical pressure to confess to the allegations that they all deny. “Just recently, they were moved from Rajai-Shahr prison to Ghezel Hesar,” Ashkan said. “They are still awaiting trial and are in very bad shape psychologically.”
Protesters in Ekbatan often marched under the blocks at night and escaped into the vast green spaces when security forces raided them. They took refuge in one of the many entrances of the blocks, or hid in the apartments of the sympathetic residents who often left their doors open for them.
The five square-kilometer complex, with a population of 45,000 has over 15,500 apartments in 33 blocks built on wide columns. The columns under the blocks are a blank canvas for protesters to spray paint anti-regime graffiti. Ordered by security forces, the management of the blocks ensures that they quickly cover the graffiti with paint, but before long, more graffiti appears on the columns.
Complaining about the many disputes among expatriate groups over the leadership of the movement, Ashkan said protesters could have achieved much more if these disputes had not slowed down the movement. “This is a lengthy process, but anything can suddenly trigger massive protests again like Mahsa’s killing did last year,” he said but declined to comment on his own leadership preferences.
“I was personally very moved last year and became more determined when I saw the video showing Majidreza Rahnavard fighting so bravely for his rights in Mashhad, which is dominated by Basijis and corrupt hardliners. He was really fearless and fought like a hero,” Ashkan said.
Rahnavard, 23, was the first of the seven young men executed in public for his involvement in the protests and the alleged stabbing of two Basijis in November 2022. He was hanged in public on December 12.