Sunday, June 25, 2023

Frontline: Inside the Iranian Uprising

How many times must the citizens of Iran take to the streets to protest their oppressive clerical regime, before the governments of the liberal West finally do something tangible to support them? Sadly, we are still asking. Who in the Biden administration could object to the most recent Iranian protest slogan: “women, life, freedom?” It is indeed Iranian women who were at the forefront of the latest round of protests and it has been Iranian women who have been dying as a result. Drawing on a wealth of protest footage posted (at least temporarily) to social media and authenticated by third parties, Nightline documents the demonstrations and the regime’s brutal response in director Majed Neisi’s “Inside the Iranian Uprising,” which premieres on digital this Thursday.

It all started with the murder Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman, who died in a Tehran hospital, after having been arrested by the Iranian Morality Police. Her story went viral throughout Iran and around the world, after reporters (one of whom, Niloofar Hamedi, has since been arrested) published photos of Amini in a coma and her parents grieving in the hospital.

Many women were so outraged, they took to the streets, burning their hijabs in public protests, even though that very definitely made them targets for the same savagery that killed Amini. One of those was Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old YouTube influencer, who mysteriously disappeared after burning her hijab in a protest, until the government finally produced her body nine days later, claiming she was the victim of a highly convenient suicide.

Yet, some of the most horrific accounts of torture in this
Frontline report come from men, like the medical student who bravely offers an on-camera description of how he was sodomized with a police baton. Neisi and the Frontline producers mask the identity of another torture victim, using a British voice actor to overdub his shocking account of how the so-called Morality Police raped him and another man while they were in custody.

“Inside the Iranian Uprising” is some of the best journalism produced on the Iranian protests in many months. It is comprehensive, but also gives an acutely personal human face to several victims. Yet, the tone is professional and authoritative, despite the harrowing nature of the events it chronicles. Even the human rights activists Neisi interviews, including
Holy Spider’s Zar Amir Ebrahimi, never try to pump up the outrage. They just let the horrific facts speak for themselves.

Nothing that Neisi and
Frontline reports on in Iran is remotely moral. Clearly, the people are desperate for a change. Isn’t it time to help them? Yet, every few months, the Biden administration keeps unfreezing Iranian accounts and attempting to restart the Iranian Nuclear deal. Frankly, the Iranian people desperately need Robert Malley (Special Envoy for Iran) to watch this report. Every American should see it too. The courage of the Iranian women it records is truly awe-inspiring, especially when you see the potential reprisals. Urgently recommended for all viewers of voting age, Frontline’s “Inside the Iranian Uprising” releases this Thursday (6/29) on the PBS app and Frontline’s digital networks, with an airdate coming in August.