Ghanbari was held during the protests. After being detained for five days in the so-called quarantine department of Tehran's Evin prison, he died on his 22nd birthday.
The prison authorities told his mother, Fatemeh Malayan Nejad, that her son had taken his own life. "My son called me from prison and told me they had beaten him," Nejad told Good King News. "It is a big lie that he committed suicide, and I will not rest until the truth comes out." Ghanbari's mother says she believes he was killed.
Ghanbari is one of nine protesters who died under "suspicious circumstances" after being detained by the Iranian authorities in 2018, according to a report from Amnesty International on 24 January. The law group also says that at least 26 demonstrators have been killed in the streets and more than 7000 dissidents of the regime were arrested all year round. 11 lawyers, 50 media professionals and 91 students were arbitrarily detained from that number.
The Iranian government did not respond to Good King News's request for comment.
But the protest movements of Iran show little signs of decline. While the security forces are tougher, dissidents have continued with demonstrations. Instead of destroying the opposition, experts say, Iran's repression may have encouraged activists.
"Demonstrators feel that they have nothing to lose," says Mansoureh Mills, the Iran researcher at Amnesty International. "In the past year, we have hit thousands of workers in the country because they have not been paid for months and have trouble maintaining their families."
"You just have to watch video's of these protests on social media and listen to workers calling:" We're not afraid of jail because we have nothing to lose "to understand how they have become courageous, "Mills added.
The wave of protests in 2018
But while the green movement attracted much larger numbers, the geographical scope of the 2017 and 2018 protests surprised the authorities by surprise. The demonstrators were largely from outside the capital. They gathered in important northeastern cities – such as the conservative stronghold of Mashhad – and in the provinces. They were also largely greeted by the working class in the country. Both demographies have long been regarded as centers of the popular basis of the regime.
"What was remarkable was their geographical spread," says Mohammad Ali Shabani, Iran Pulse editor at Al-Monitor. "Equally remarkable was the lack of elite back coverage: in addition to general statements of sympathy with demands such as more jobs and lower consumer prices, no large political camp on the side of the demonstrators."
Despite the violent reaction of the regime to the first demonstrations in 2017 and 2018, individuals and coordinated groups of dissidents continued to demand public and political reforms in 2018.
As the economic crisis of Iran deepened, peaceful demonstrations were held in July and August, with the authorities spreading using live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons, Amnesty said.
"(The crackdown is the worst we've experienced in the last decade," Rahai Bahrain, Iranian researcher at Amnesty International, told Good King News.
A few brave women
Perhaps the most striking social movement to gain momentum in 2018 was the protests against the mandatory Islamic hijab law.
On December 27, 2017, Vida Movahedi, a 31-year-old Iranian mother, climbed on top of a utility station on one of the most crowded streets of Tehran and waved silently with a white headscarf on a stick. She was open, her long hair was flying in the wind.
Movahedi was arrested a few hours later, but a picture of her lonely act went viral. The image helped banish the social media campaign of the banished Iranian Masih Alinejad's "White Woensdagen". The movement encourages people to protest against the mandatory headscarf law by wearing white on Wednesday or going out unhindered.
Through its campaign, Alinejad receives photo & # 39; s and video & # 39; s of these demonstrations. She then shares them on her social media accounts, which together have more than 2.3 million. Within a few weeks after the act of Movahedi, women throughout the country filmed themselves in a show of solidarity on busy streets.
By the end of 2018, according to Amnesty, at least 112 female activists had been arrested or detained. Despite the arrests, the White Woensdagen movement continues today and shows no signs of sagging.
Shaparak Shajarizadeh, 43, an active member of the movement, was arrested three times in 2018 before eventually fleeing to Turkey and subsequently seeking asylum in Canada. She was first detained on February 21 for sharing a video of her online mirroring of Movahedi's demonstration.
"I was beaten in the ethics and the security office, then they sent me to solitary confinement in prison, I was on a hunger strike for a week and then I was released," Shajarizadeh told Good King News. "Then I received threats – they told me to stop posting my photos online and to discuss the mandatory hijab laws."
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer and defender of the rights of women in Iran, took the case of Shajarizadeh. In anticipation of a conviction, Shajarizadeh was again illegally detained by the authorities in March and May. She says she was tortured, threatened, and thrown into Evin prison.
"I was accused of corruption and prostitution for posting pictures without my hijab online," says Shajarizadeh. "They told me to drop Nasrin Sotoudeh as my lawyer – and they threatened to charge me with national security charges against the country if I would keep her."
Shajarizadeh was sentenced to 20 years in prison, of which 18 were suspended. Sotoudeh himself was arrested on 13 June 2018 for the defense of various anti-compulsory hijab demonstrators. She faces national security-related charges that could lead them to prison for more than a decade.
According to the Human Rights Center in Iran, her visits are refused by her family. On 23 January, the husband of Sotoudeh, Reza Khandan, also a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison for security-related charges. Both are now appealing against their charges.
During 2018, senior US government officials – including President Donald Trump and Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo – have repeatedly contacted Iranian demonstrators to further isolate the regime.
Pompeo seemed to have a personal interest in the anti-hijab demonstrations, and on two occasions in 2018 tweette of the protest of Vida Movahedi. In June he even posted a picture of Movahedi next to a photo of the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, with the slogan "Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights", written about the image. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also tweeted several reports supporting women's rights in Iran – all written in Farsi.
"If they choose not to do so, we will continue to struggle against this until we have achieved the results I have set out," continued Pompeo.
What to expect in 2019
Although more Iranians publicly broadcast their social and economic grievances, the lack of organized political opposition within Iran has convinced analysts that the protest movements are not a serious threat to the regime.
"We can expect more protests in the coming months as the economic situation worsens, but it's hard to predict where they can lead because of their lack of organization, formulation of clear and unified demands and elite buy-in," says Al-Monitor & # 39; s Shabani.
The American ambassador John Limbert, who was imprisoned during the hostage in 1979 and served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran in 2009, is convinced that the regime will prevail. "In the Islamic Republic the authorities always feel threatened," says Limbert. "They will do what they have to do to stay in power, if that requires brutality, so be it." If it means flexibility, they will try that. "
"The same men's club has run things since 1979. Even though age catches up with them, they will stick to it for as long as possible.It is clear that they usually have no idea of the reality of their own society, where people are creative, committed and well-educated, "Limbert tells Good King News.
On January 29, the Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2019 was released by the American director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. "We judge that Tehran is willing to take more aggressive security measures in response to renewed turmoil," the document says.
However, as the regime is looking forward to kick-start in 2019, some of the demonstrators do the same.
A 38-year-old from Mashhad who participated in the protests and demonstrations of 2017 and 2018 in support of the White Wednesdays movement, tells Good King News that, despite being beaten, threatened and thrown into prison, he does not intend to remain silent in 2019 "I will continue to protest until the mandatory law on the hijab is lifted and until there is Iranian freedom for this despotic religious regime," says the protester, who refused to reveal his name for security reasons.
The predictions of Amnesty International for the coming year reflect his comments. "Iran is in the grip of an unprecedented crisis that is rooted in a combination of serious political, economic, ecological and human rights problems," says researcher Bahreini.
"We can therefore expect that protests against poverty, inflation, corruption and political authoritarianism will grow in the country."