Iranian sisters sing 'Bella Ciao' in protest against government clampdown

Authorities in Tehran threaten to take action against those supporting the anti-government demonstrations as death toll hits 84

Iranian Americans rally in support of the Iranian resistance movement and to denounce the death of Mahsa Amini, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on September 28. AFP
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Iranians are singing an old Italian old folk song to bring global attention to nationwide protests in the country over the death of Mahsa Amini.

A video has gone viral of two women singing the song Bella Ciao — their response to the government’s clampdown on protests that began earlier this month after the 22-year-old died in custody of the so-called morality police.

Sisters Samin and Behin Bolouri sing the Farsi version of the 19th century Italian resistance song, which was often heard during the Second World War.

The sisters do not cover their hair in the video, a symbolic act to protest against Amini's arrest on charges of not wearing the hijab headscarf properly.

The video has been widely shared on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, where millions have viewed it.

Following the death of Amini, on September 16, authorities cut the internet and blocked access to social media sites where hundreds of videos were circulating.

Footage showed crowds cheering as women cut their hair, burnt their hijabs and chanted slogans against the government.

Solidarity protests also erupted across the US, in Europe and in parts of the Middle East, as many held up pictures of Amini.

Rights groups said dozens had been killed in two weeks of protests as authorities pressed ahead with more detentions of prominent figures.

Amnesty International said it had confirmed 52 deaths in the protests, but the toll was likely higher.

Oslo-based Iran Human Rights said at least 83 people had been killed.

Dina Esfandiary, International Crisis Group's senior adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, said there was little people living outside of Iran could do, other than share videos internationally to raise awareness.

"As an Iranian, it's very difficult to respond in any other way but to feel profoundly affected to feel helpless outside of the country," she told The National.

“I'm in touch with friends, family members and people back in Iran. It's heartbreaking, you want to be able to help out. You want to be able to do something.”

On Friday, the government said it would take action against prominent people supporting the protests.

The announcement came after sportspeople, musicians and filmmakers backed the demonstrations.

"We will take action against the celebrities who have fanned the flames of the riots," Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said, according to the ISNA news agency.

Iran's judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei similarly charged that "those who became famous thanks to support from the system have joined the enemy when times are difficult".

Authorities had played down the crisis.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he told Western diplomats at recent UN meetings that the protests were "not a big deal" for the stability of the Islamic Republic.

"There is not going to be regime change in Iran," he told National Public Radio in New York on Wednesday. "Don't play to the emotions of the Iranian people."

Updated: September 30, 2022, 11:39 AM
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