‘After transgender and transracial, we got trans-abled,’ she said. ‘Yeah, this one’s really messed up.’
Wheeler then went on to list rare incidents from several years ago in which a few people had intentionally maimed themselves. She did not say they suffered from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), a condition in which able-bodied people believe they are meant to be disabled, have harmed themselves. Pushback: Tommy Lee deleted a commentary from OAN deemed transphobic after getting pushback for the post on social media Friday
She also made reference to a man who allegedly tried to hire a nanny to treat him like a baby. The anchor failed to mention that the man had been arrested on human trafficking charges for the scam.
She finished up the sermon saying, ‘If a kid can be transgender because he feels like a girl, who are we to tell a child he must attend school or obey his parents or refuse him a beer when he orders one. You can’t have it both ways.’
When Tommy shared the clip, he added his own comment, ‘Where does it end people?!?!,’ according to TMZ.
Questlove was one of the first to clap back writing, ‘OAN tho? #unfollow’ but pal Crissangel, agreed with the rocker writing ‘100%.
After removing the clip, the Wild Side artist took to Instagram with a long message saying, ‘I deleted my “controversial” post because I am in no way transphobic or against the LGBTQIA+ community….’
‘S***, I’m the gayest motherf***er around!’ he contended on the message written against a background of pink penises.
He explained the clip was meant to draw attention to the rare incidents of self-mutilation.
‘I just don’t agree with how far some things have been taken. I just feel it’s crazy that some people are blinding themselves because they feel they should’ve been born blind.’Commentary: OAN anchor Liz Wheeler compared being transgender to a rare incidents of people maiming themselves because they ‘feel’ they should be disabled. She did not mention they suffered from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), a rare psychological conditionGayest: Tommy said he was not transphobic in a long post, calling himself ‘the gayest motherf***er around!’Thinking: Tommy said he posted the commentary because Wheeler’s allegations ‘got me thinking… about where this and our world is all going’
‘I get being born female and identifying as male, or being born male and identifying as female, or whatever, he said.
Then referring to the some of Wheelers other allegations, he wrote, ‘but when ppl start identifying as babies or animals… WTF!’
‘I posted that because it got me thinking (and you should too) about where this and our world is all going.’
The Grammy winner added a post script, writing next to the explanation, ‘AAaaand…don’t even get me started with the AI s**t… before you know it you’ll be wondering if anything in this world is real or what it seems.’
A bill that would prohibit drag shows in public spaces has been signed into law by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, which is expected to drive such performances underground in the state. Other states are proposing comparable laws.
Lee signed the measure just hours after it passed in the Senate on Thursday. During the same session, Lee also signed a bill prohibiting gender-affirming healthcare for minors in the state.
The announcement comes after a yearbook photo of the Republican governor in drag surfaced on Reddit.
According to Hella Skeleton, a drag performer from rural Middle Tennessee, the distinction between wearing a dress at a high school football game and drag queens wearing dresses on stage is not so clear, despite Gov. Lee’s assertion that there is a significant difference.
“For Bill Lee to say, ‘You know, that was lighthearted when I did it,’ that is absolutely absurd when a lot of drag is extremely lighthearted,” Skeleton says. “Apparently when straight men dress up badly in drag, that’s OK. But when gay and queer and trans people do it, that’s not OK.”
Republican State Rep. Jack Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, has stated that they are protecting kids, families, and parents who want to take their kids to public places, and that they are not attacking or targeting anyone.
However, the broad language of the bill has raised concerns among LGBTQ advocates. The bill’s definition of drag performers as “male or female impersonators” has the potential to affect queer individuals in Tennessee beyond just drag performers, according to Henry Seaton of the ACLU of Tennessee.
“It’s … this subtle and sinister way to further criminalize just being trans,” Seaton says.
Outdoor drag shows are a popular part of Pride festivals in Tennessee during the summer season. However, the newly passed ban on drag shows in public spaces could have a negative impact on these events.
The ban, which was initially set to go into effect on July 1, was amended in January to take effect on April 1, ahead of the Pride month in June. This move has raised concerns among LGBTQ advocates and supporters. Cadence Miller, a student at Tennessee Tech, believes that drag queens have played a significant role in shaping the queer community, and their current threat is not a coincidence.
“Historically, drag has been such an integral part of queer culture,” Miller says. “Trans drag performers who were like pioneers and us getting … any type of queer rights, like at all.”
Legal challenges ahead
The law calls drag shows “harmful to minors,” but the state’s American Civil Liberties Union says that the legal definition for “harmful to minors” is very narrow in Tennessee and only covers extreme sexual or violent content.
“The law bans obscene performances, and drag performances are not inherently obscene,” says ACLU of Tennessee Legal Director Stella Yarbrough. The way the law is written, she says, should not make drag shows illegal in the state.
“However, we are concerned that government officials could easily abuse this law to censor people based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate.”
The ACLU has expressed its intention to challenge the law should it be used to penalize a drag performer or shut down an LGBTQ event.
The ban, which refers to drag shows as “adult cabaret,” with an appeal to “a prurient nature,” could negatively affect local businesses. David Taylor, a Nashville business owner, testified before the state legislature that the drag shows at his club are not sexually explicit, as demonstrated by the Tennessee liquor license they possess, which binds them to Tennessee liquor laws. The ban on drag could negatively affect Nashville’s economy, as drag brunches in the city’s bars are frequented by bachelorette parties, and Music City has a renowned fleet of party vehicles, including a drag queen-specific bus.
This marks the third consecutive year that the Tennessee statehouse has rolled back the rights of transgender Tennesseans. Consequently, many trans individuals and families of trans kids are contemplating whether staying in the state is worth the battle.
“There’s a lot of people who grew up here, and this is where their roots are. And it’s really brutal to be faced with that sort of choice of, you know, you can either stay here and suffer or you can leave this home that you’ve created and all that you’ve invested in here,” says drag performer Hella Skeleton. “So, yeah, it’s a really tough choice.”
Scorpion stands for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods”.
The unit is a 50-person unit with the mission of bringing down crime levels in particular areas.
But now it is being abolished after its officers were seen beating Mr Nichols, 29, in the videos from 7 January.
In a statement, the department said “it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate” the unit.
“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title Scorpion, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted,” it added.
The unit was launched in October 2021 with a focus on high-impact crimes, such as car thefts and gang-related offences.
The five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith – were fired last week.
They were taken into custody on Thursday and each faces charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Four of the five posted bail and were released from custody by Friday morning, according to jail records.
Lawyers for Mr Martin and Mr Mills have said their clients will plead not guilty.
“The unit that murdered Tyre has been permanently disbanded,” a protester shouted into a megaphone in Memphis and the crowd erupted into cheers.
Despite the rain, the group of fewer than 100 protesters had gathered in the square in front of the Memphis Police headquarters to demand change to a system of policing that they said makes a habit of brutalising black people in Memphis and across the country.
“Memphis is taking a stand,” said Casio Montez, one of the protest organisers. “This means we’re doing something right.”
Montez vowed that he and other community organizers would continue to pressure Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis and city officials until “the community’s demands are met”, including reforming the department’s organized crime unit.
In an interview on Friday, Chief Davis said the Scorpion unit was created to be “more responsive” and “more proactive” to gun violence in the city. But she acknowledged that the officers who brutally beat Tyre Nichols “decided to go off the rails”.
“We are doing an individual evaluation of all units,” she said. “This is a necessary step. We want to be fully transparent to the community.”
But for some, the problem of police violence is more deeply rooted than any reform can address.
At the rally Saturday, Memphis native Allie Watkins held a sign that proclaimed, “All cops uphold white supremacy.”
The sign is historically accurate, she said, because the history of policing in America began with slave patrols.
“This is not an issue of corruption in the United States, this is an issue of the fact that the system has been built against black bodies,” she said. If the system is broken, she added, the only way to fix it is to start again.
Police initially said Mr Nichols had been stopped on suspicion of reckless driving, which has not been substantiated. He died in hospital three days later, on 10 January.
Mr Nichols was black, as are all five officers charged in the case.
Memphis Police Department released four graphic videos of the traffic stop and its violent aftermath on Friday, totaling more than an hour of footage.
Peaceful protests took place in Memphis on Friday night after the video was released, with some demonstrators blocking a major highway in the city, while small-scale demonstrations were held elsewhere in the country.
Many protesters held banners demanding justice for Mr Nichols and an end to “police terror”.
Lawyers for Nichols’ family likened the assault to the 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.
The Scorpion programme was touted by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland in a speech a year ago. He said the city used crime data “to determine where the unit will conduct its enforcement activities within the city”.
From October 2021 until January 2022, the unit made 566 arrests, he said. They also seized more than $100,000 in cash, 270 vehicles and 253 weapons.
In the wake of Mr Nichols’ death, one local man, Cornell McKinney, told a Memphis-area TV network that he had a tense encounter with the unit on 3 January, just days before the incident involving Mr Nichols.
Mr McKinney alleges that the officers – who were travelling in unmarked vehicles – threatened to “blow his head off”, pointed a weapon at his head and accused him of carrying drugs.
He complained to the Memphis Police Department after the incident, but says he has not heard anything back.
One of the officers that arrested Nichols had previously been sued by a man who accused him of beating him when he was a prisoner eight years ago.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that she felt a “sense of despair” with the direction of the Supreme Court amid the fallout from its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade over the summer.
Speaking to an audience of law professors, Sotomayor said that she was “shell-shocked” and “deeply sad” about the court’s decision on abortion rights at the end of its term in June, according to Reuters.
“I did have a sense of despair about the direction my court was going,” Sotomayor said via video at the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in San Diego.
She did not explicitly mention the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization or the draft opinion that was leaked into publicly before the Supreme Court’s eventual decision on the matter.
Sotomayor, who was appointed to serve on the court by then-President Obama in 2009, added that she’ll continue to be a voice of dissent on the majority-conservative court and was optimistic the direction of the court will change in the future.
“It’s not an option to fall into despair,” Sotomayor said. “I have to get up and keep fighting.”
Sotomayor’s remarks come at the start of a new session of the Supreme Court, which could issue transformative rulings rule on affirmative action, voting rights and businesses refusing service for LGBTQ people.
During oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health in December 2021, Sotomayor suggested the court would not “survive the stench” if it were to uphold the controversial 15-week abortion ban ruling.
“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Sotomayor asked an attorney who backed the Mississippi law. “I don’t see how it is possible.”
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade brought an end to 50 years of the constitutional right to an abortion, effectively leaving the issue to states.
Multiple GOP-led states quickly implemented their own abortion bans and restrictions, including a number of “trigger laws” that took effect soon after Roe was overturned.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this week announced it has banned imports from three companies the agency said use North Korean labor in their supply chains.
CBP banned imports from Jingde Trading Ltd., Rixin Foods. Ltd. and Zhejiang Sunrise Garment Group Co. Ltd. under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a 2017 law that strengthened sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia.
“CBP is committed to keeping America’s supply chains free of goods produced with forced labor and to eliminating this horrific practice,” said AnnMarie Highsmith, executive assistant commissioner in CBP’s trade office.
“North Korea’s forced labor system operates both domestically and internationally and supports the North Korean Government’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, and it is also a major human rights violation,” she continued. “Legally and morally, we cannot allow these goods into our commerce.”
The 2017 law prohibits the entry of any goods produced by North Korean nationals unless clear and convincing evidence is provided that indicates the materials were not made with forced labor.
CBP’s statement, which indicated the ban began on Dec. 5, did not include what the three companies allegedly did to trigger the ban. The companies could not be reached for comment.
The law is one of multiple passed in recent years as part of a broader U.S. crackdown on forced labor.
President Biden last year signed a law that bans imports of goods from China’s Xinjiang region, similarly presuming they were made with forced labor unless individuals or companies demonstrate that the materials were produced otherwise.
An elderly Colorado woman is suing a Denver police detective who ordered a SWAT raid on her house after it was falsely pinged by Apple’s “Find my” app as the location of several stolen items — including six firearms and an old iPhone — according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The suit, filed in Denver District Court by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, alleges that Denver Police Department Detective Gary Staab illegally issued a warrant for the raid of the home of 77-year-old Ruby Johnson on Jan. 4, based on what the complaint characterizes as a “hastily prepared, bare-bones, misleading affidavit.”
The complaint specifies Johnson is suing Staab “in his individual capacity.” Johnson is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, according to the filing.
Staab could not immediately be reached.
The complaint contends that Staab’s affidavit violated Johnson’s right, afforded by the state constitution, to “be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.” The affidavit allegedly “lacked probable cause that evidence of crime could be found” at Johnson’s home, since it was based on an unverified and vague ping by Apple’s “Find My” app, which is used to track Apple devices.
Staab issued the search warrant the day after a white truck with a Texas license plate was allegedly stolen from the parking garage of a Denver Hyatt hotel, according to the truck’s owner, who was staying at the hotel. The owner told police that the truck contained six firearms — including a tactical military-style rifle — two drones, $4,000 cash and an old iPhone 11.
The next morning, according to the complaint, Staab interviewed the owner of the truck by phone, who said he had used the “Find My” app to search for his stolen belongings and that it had twice pinged Johnson’s address the day before. Staab then used that claim as the basis for the raid, according to a copy of the affidavit obtained by NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver.
The complaint alleges there were two main problems with that: first, Staab allegedly failed to attempt to independently corroborate the alleged location of the stolen items before carrying out the raid; and secondly, the “Find My” app is used to determine approximate locations and “is not intended as a law enforcement tool,” according to the complaint.
The area that was highlighted on the app as the possible location of the phone, for example, spanned at least six properties and four blocks, according to an image on the complaint that was also featured on the affidavit obtained by KUSA.
“Defendant Staab presented his false characterization of the screenshot’s meaning as an objective fact and omitted the particular facts and circumstances that contradicted it,” the complaint states.
A statement the Denver Police Department said the SWAT team was involved in the raid “due to allegations that six guns had been stolen and may have been located in Ms. Johnson’s home.”
The department’s Police Chief, Ron Thomas, has ordered an internal investigation in light of the incident, according to the statement, which added that the police department is also working with the district attorney’s office “to develop additional training for officers and assistant district attorneys related to seeking warrants based upon find my phone applications.”
“We hope to continue to work with Ms. Johnson’s family through her attorneys to resolve this matter without further litigation,” the statement added.
‘The house was left in disarray’
Johnson — who the filing describes as a “United States Postal Service worker and grandmother who lives alone in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood” — was “frightened and confused” when the SWAT team arrived in military gear, with tactical rifles and a police trained German Shepherd dog, and used a bullhorn to demand that anyone inside the home come out.
According to the filing, officers damaged Johnson’s home as they kept her sitting in a police car, even after she told them there was nothing stolen in the house. The complaint alleges they used a battering ram to “destroy’ the back garage door and door frame — even after Johnson gave them instructions about how to open the garage door.
Officers also “broke the head off one of Ms. Johnson’s prized collectable doll figurines that Ms. Johnson had cherished for nearly three decades as a gift from her youngest son,” the complaint states, adding that police also rifled through her belongings.
“The house was left in disarray,” even though the raid turned up none of the items police were looking for and no evidence of any connection to the crime, according to the complaint.
‘Tears start coming down’
The episode caused Johnson “severe physical and emotional distress,” according to the complaint: “Ms. Johnson’s privacy, sense of safety, and peace in her home have been shattered since her house became the scene of a militarized criminal investigation.”
Following the raid, Johnson left her home — first, to spend a week with her daughter, who lives nearby, and then to stay with her son in Texas for several months — because she “could not bear to remain in her house,” according to the complaint. Since she has returned home, she remains afraid to answer the door and is considering moving away, according to the complaint.
“When I start thinking about it, tears start coming down,” Johnson told KUSA.
The filing claims that Staab “acknowledged to Ms. Johnson’s children the harm his DPD officers caused to Ms. Johnson’s well-being, home, and personal property,” but that he told them the police department wouldn’t pay for repairs from the search.
Neither Staab nor the police department apologized for the raid, according to the complaint.
The statement from the Denver Police Department states that both the department and the Department of Public Safety “sincerely apologize to Ms. Johnson for any negative impacts this situation may have had on her.”
A man was taken into custody and interrogated for hours by police despite needing urgent medical attention for gunshot wounds to the head.
In 2006, Ryan Waller was the victim of a violent Christmas break-in at his home in Phoenix, Arizona, that left his girlfriend, Heather Quan, dead, and him seriously injured in a case that has now resurfaced on TikTok due to the unusual nature of it.
The couple, who lived with one other roommate, had only been in the house for a few months when Ritchie Carver – a former roommate and friend – and his father Larry Carver decided to break in on December 23.
After the pair rang the doorbell, Ryan got up to see who it was, but after realising they were both carrying guns, the then 22-year-old tried to shut the door. Richie then reached through and shot him twice in the head.
He then went into another room and shot Heather dead as she lay on the couch, before the pair stole several weapons and computers from the scene.
Heather died at the scene but Ryan was too injured to call for help and lay injured in the house for two days until police eventually gained access after his dad called them worried his son hadn’t come for Christmas dinner.
Ryan then became the prime suspect in Heather’s murder and was taken into custody for questioning.
Ryan told detectives he couldn’t remember what had happened, so a lengthly interrogation got underway despite the fact he urgently needed media attention.
In video of the interrogation it is clear that Ryan is badly injured and when he started to deteriorate medical help was eventually sought.
Doctors later told Ryan’s dad, Don, that his son had an infection that could have been avoided had he received proper and timely care.
Ryan remained in hospital for 35 days. He lost some of his brain, left eye and experiences seizures. He died in 2007.
Ritchie Carver received life without parole, then in 2013 after a lengthy process Larry Carver was also sentenced to life.
Ryan’s father sued the Phoenix Police Department, and the interrogator who dealt with Ryan was charged with evidence tampering and fabricating stories about events to do with the case.
When Myra Williams looks back on her life — her marriage to her cousin, singer Jerry Lee Lewis, in 1957 when she was just 13 years old, their good and bad times together, the two children they had, the permanent damage that their relationship inflicted on Lewis’ career and legacy — she sometimes wonders whether it was all a dream.
“But it happened,” the 78-year-old author and former real estate agent told The Times by telephone from her home in Atlanta, one day after Lewis’ death. “It did. It all happened to me.”
Everything “gigantic,” she said, occurred in her teenage years, cataloguing the milestones: married at 13; a mother at 14; losing her firstborn child when she was 17; giving birth to her second child at 19.
“Yes, it was turbulent as a teenager to be a wife and mother,” Williams said. “But in going through it, I’ve found my strength. And there’s almost nothing that can knock me off my block at this point.”
In the hours after Lewis died at age 87, obituaries of the rock legend flooded the internet, each featuring a transitional paragraph noting that Lewis’ star fell as quickly as it rose when his marriage to Williams became public during a tour of Britain a year after his debut album featuring the smash hit “Great Balls of Fire” rocketed to No. 2 on the pop charts.
“I was the bad thing in his life,” said Williams, describing how people saw her. “It was because of our marriage that his career hit the pavement. You know, you were judged for everything you did back then.”
And that judgment was swift and fierce. Radio stations stopped playing Lewis’ music. His label, Sun Records, stopped promoting him, and offers to perform evaporated. It was a lot for a young girl to shoulder, Williams said, adding that the misconception that plagued her then holds true to this day.
“I was called the child bride, but I was the adult and Jerry was the child,” Williams said. “When I look back on it, how can you defend yourself when you’re 13 years old? I mean there’s no excuse good enough for that to be OK.”
Williams said that she nonetheless took on all the responsibilities that came with her new role. “And I didn’t miss a beat. I took care of everything.”
She bought the couple’s home when Lewis was on the road, and also the car Lewis wanted. He told her to find a red Cadillac convertible, Williams remembered, and she did.
“I mean, I didn’t even have a driver’s license,” she said. “I did all the work and made all the decisions and did all the running and taking care of business and that kind of stuff.”
Williams even managed the finances, she said.
“One time I went to the bank with a big sack of money to deposit it … and the teller said to me, ‘Myra, there’s a policeman sitting there outside in his car and he followed you here. So when you get ready to leave, I’ll drive you home,'” she said.
The Cadillac stayed in the bank parking lot that day.
Williams said drugs caused irreparable damage to her marriage. Before Lewis began using drugs, she said, he was silly, playful and kind. The couple would have pillow fights, crack jokes and pull goofy pranks, like holding on to the doorknob from the other side of the door to stop each other from getting in. When the drugs became a permanent fixture, she said, Lewis changed.
“His personality just became mean. And nasty. It was like a whole different man. Just bad, you know?” she said.
Williams and Lewis divorced in 1970, with Williams filing on the grounds of adultery and abuse. But they stayed in touch over the years because of the bond they shared through their daughter, Phoebe Allen Lewis. The couple’s son, Steve Allen Lewis, drowned at the age of 3.
Williams married briefly after that — an 18-month romance that she described as “an absolute fiasco and stupid.” She has been married to her current husband, Richard Williams, for going on 39 years. The couple own a real estate company in Atlanta but have both retired from day-to-day business.
“We just putter around, you know. We don’t have to do anything,” she said, adding that their office manager takes care of almost everything and they just stop by the office every once in a while to chat. “We just live a real simple life of sleeping late and watching ‘I Love Lucy.'”
Williams did her best to hold back tears when talking about Lewis’ death, which occurred a few weeks after the death of her father, J.W. Brown, a musician in his own right and Lewis’ cousin. It was Brown who went to Natchez, Miss., where Lewis was living as an unknown musician and brought him to Memphis, Tenn., to record with Sam Phillips at Sun Records, Williams said. He also invited Lewis to live in his home with his family, which is how Lewis and Williams fell in love.
When Brown heard the young couple had eloped, “he got his gun,” Williams said. “That was not a happy moment. Daddy felt very betrayed by that. I was his 13-year-old little girl.”
Brown went after Lewis, but Lewis was gone.
“The minute Daddy left the house, my mother called Sam Phillips and said, ‘Oh my God, you’re not gonna believe what’s happened, Sam,'” Williams said. “Mom said, ‘Jerry and Myra have gotten married. And Jay [J.W.] has his pistol. He’s on his way to Sun Records. You better get Jerry out of there.'”
Phillips “ran Jerry off” and told him to get on a plane. He said, “I don’t care where you go, just go,” Williams said.
Lewis was gone for three or four days, during which time Phillips sat Brown down and did his best to calm him, Williams said.
“Sam Phillips was a real talker, let’s put it that way. He could convince you that whatever you were seeing wasn’t there,” Williams said.
Brown came to accept the marriage after that, Williams said.
“There was just no choice. I mean, killing Jerry was not an option. It was his first thought, but it wasn’t an option,” she said.
When Lewis came back, Brown shook his hand and said, “You better be good to my girl.”
Williams stopped speaking with Lewis after he married her former sister-in-law, Judith Brown, in 2012. It was a hurt that cut deep, Williams said. Judith had been a friend and part of the family. (Brown was the former wife of Williams’ younger brother.)
Williams doesn’t recall the last time she spoke with Lewis, but said she tried to contact him about two years ago. She had asked Phoebe whether it would be OK if she called Lewis, and when she did, “I didn’t know what I was gonna say to him or tell him, and I made the call and he came to the phone, and I couldn’t talk. I hung up the phone.”
If Williams could give advice to her 13-year-old self, she said she had no idea what it might be.
“I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could,” she said. Then she stopped and thought for a second and began to laugh. “I might tweak it a little. I would tweak it a lot. I would tweak the hell out of it. I would be smarter.”
“But how smart can you be when you’re 14 years old?” she asked. “You’re a stupid kid at that age. You’re just not ready for it. You’re not ready for prime time.”
The death of a young Iranian woman in police custody sparked what activists are now calling an “uprising,” against which Iranian authorities are using methods of abuse perfected over the past four decades to silence dissent.
The women of Iran have emerged as the dominant force in the protests, and are taking matters into their own hands, bringing together various critical elements of society all insisting on change.
From arbitrary arrests and detention to forced confessions and torture, Iran is still using the same tactics it used in the 2019 uprising and the 1979 revolution to punish activists and those who oppose Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s regime.
A human rights campaign activist, who requested anonymity, told Newsweek that violence is the “greatest instrument” that the regime typically uses to repress protesters, but now the ruling regime has added new tactics, many of which are extreme and widely abusive, in an effort to end protests across the country.
“Mass arrests have increased even compared to the last waves of protests,” the activist said. “The regime’s handling of the media is different — the government quite deliberately spreads misinformation to confuse the protesters.”
Iranian security forces are also banning anyone from taking photos or videos of the protests, and those who violate such rules are arrested, a Tehran-based protester, who asked to be identified as Mehdi for fear of reprisal, told Newsweek.
“And [there is also] the location-based Internet blockade,” the activist said. “In the places where there are larger protests, the Internet is more restricted.”
Majid Sadeghpour, a director at the Organization of Iranian American Communities, told Newsweek that the regime is using the same torture techniques on its opponents as it has since it rose to power more than 40 years ago.
Sadeghpour, who left Iran a few years after his brother was executed following the 1979 revolution, confirmed that some forms of torture instituted under the former Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime are commonly used against protesters. These include rape and sexual violence, waterboarding, amputations, electrocutions, and solitary confinements.
“Those are some of the reasons why you see the protests the way you see them today,” Sadeghpour told Newsweek, “because of the desire of the people to change this medieval behavior towards mankind.”
“This behavior is particularly severe towards women,” he added. “They are subjecting women to systemic misogyny in every aspect of law.” In the video above, two women are holding up their headscarves as they stop traffic briefly, while one person in the car filming that moment can be heard saying “well done.”
Protesters are being treated violently while being arrested, according to Mehdi. They are also being beaten and taken to undisclosed locations where they would be abused and detained in “inhumane conditions,” Sepideh, a 32-year-old protester based in Tehran, told Newsweek.
Two of Sepideh’s friends were arrested during the protests, including one person who was placed in solitary confinement after being taken from his home for his “activism.”
“In both cases for some days the families and friends were unaware of their conditions and where they were kept,” she said. “Both have been released on bail after 2-3 weeks.”
Some detained women experienced similar abuses, according to accounts given to United for Iran. In one account, a 16-year-old girl was tortured in the custody of the Revolutionary Guard in Tabriz, her nose was broken, and guards withheld medical assistance from her.
“We have information about an 18-year-old who, despite his pre-existing condition and spinal disease, was tortured,” the United for Iran activist said of another incident. “We know about torture in pre-trial detention in Qazvin and also in northern Iran.”
Children are not spared in this crackdown, making up 16% of overall deaths of protesters and bystanders during the recent incidents, according to a report by Amnesty International.
“Since the eruption of the uprising on 16 September 2022, Iran’s security forces have killed with absolute impunity at least 23 children and injured many more in a bid to crush the spirit of resistance among the country’s youth and retain their iron grip on power at any cost,” the organization said in the report.
Revolt Spreads As Women Demand Control of Their Lives
So far, the efforts of the regime’s forces have failed to curb the determination of Iranian women to demand change. They not only ignited the protests, but also became leaders of various forms of public resistance across Iran.
Videos posted by 1500tasvir, a Twitter account run by opposition activists, showed groups of women chanting and holding signs during street protests. One video showed two women holding up their headscarves in their hands as they briefly stopped traffic. In the video above, protesters are chanting for women, freedom, and life in the city of Abadan, Iran. 1500tasvir said in the Tweet that security forces fired bullets in the air to disperse the protest for the second time, but demonstrators are going to gather elsewhere.
“While the initial demands of the protesters were abrogation of the Hijab law and clarification of the death of Jina Mahsa Amini,” an human rights activist from United for Iran said, “they are protesting against the whole system.”
Although some protests are small due to heavy security presence in some areas, the activist said that women are still finding new ways to rally. It is now normal to see women on the streets without their headscarves, according to the activist, who said the state is “failing to control the situation.”
Sepideh told Newsweek that although demonstrations in Tehran have been limited to universities and neighborhoods over the past week, women are protesting by going outdoors without the hijab, spray painting anti-government slogans on walls of buildings in the streets, and chanting “death to the dictator” every night.
“It is a revolution!” 18-year-old Noora, from Kerman, Iran, told Newsweek.
Noora, a protester and a member of Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), expressed that she has faith that protesters will overthrow the regime despite the harsh security crackdown. The MEK is an Iranian resistance group that was founded in 1965 by leftist Iranian students who were against the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
“The courage of the people, the solidarity and high spirit of the people are really amazing,” Noora said. “Protests are increasing every day. No one thought the demonstrations would last for a month, but as you can see, it continues and people are not afraid at all.”
“In many cities, such as Rasht, Tehran, and Karaj, protesters force the officers to stand back or take the arrested from their hands [to free them],” she added.
Shahin, a 17-year-old protester from Nazi Abad, a middle-class neighborhood in Tehran, said that Iranians are still standing strong and insisting on the overthrow of the regime.
“The people are no longer afraid of the baton and the gun,” he said. “They are working hand-in-hand for their freedom from the inhumane regime.”
“The people are fed up with this regime,” he added. In the video, above, women can be heard chanting “death to the dictator.”
The woman-centric protests have inspired other crucial segments of Iranian society to revolt as well, including teachers, students, and workers. In the oil sector in the south of Iran workers went on strike, while firefighters rallied in some areas to protest poor working conditions, according to Mehdi.
The scale of those strikes remain unknown, but the United for Iran activist confirmed that “workers in different industries are trying to organize.” He noted that due to “the ban on unions and the internet blockade, it will take some time before they can find each other and form a common plan.”
Children Leading the Way
Schoolchildren are also taking part in the mass revolt, despite their lack of involvement in organized protests over the past 40 years.
“Their rallies in schoolyards and after school hours in the streets challenge the Islamic Republic in a different way than usual,” the human rights activist explained. “The regime finds it difficult to suppress schoolchildren. Society reacts with great anger against it.”
Teachers are also holding strikes in Kurdish areas of the country and in Ardabil, a provincial capital city of more than 500,000 residents in the northwest, to support student rallies and oppose attempts by authorities to silence students. United for Iran confirmed reports that some “school administrators refuse to implement the dogmatic laws of the Islamic Republic and are less strict with students.”
However, not all teachers are supporting the anti-government protests. Some don’t mind seeing their students arrested, according to Mehdi.
“There are many pro-regime teachers that oppose the protests,” Mehdi said, “and some of the teachers ask the regime’s guys to punish, arrest, [and] stand against protestors.”
Can the Pressure Change or Topple the Regime?
Sepideh and Noora are among many Iranian women and girls who want to end the “theocratic” rule in the country and change the Islamic Republic system because it “lost its legitimacy.”
“I want the gender apartheid in the country to end,” Sepideh said. “I want equal rights with men and the right to be part of the decision-making in the country as a secular woman.”
“I want rights for ethnic and sexual minorities,” she added. “I want a non-belligerent foreign policy and sustainable environmental policies.”
Noora said that the core purpose of the protests is to get international recognition for Iranians’ resistance and to demand the establishment of a democratic republic in Iran.
“When I hear the slogans, I understand these things and I really enjoy them,” she said. “Things like shouting for freedom, ‘death to the oppressor,’ be it the Shah or the leader.”
The protests have had impact in Iran and around the world. Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, founder and editor in chief of Tehran Bureau, a news website that reports on corruption in Iran, told Newsweek that the world will challenge the Islamic Republic differently moving forward.
“I think the protests have already pushed the Islamic Republic beyond a point of no return, she explained. “I don’t think even the regime knows what’s next. The status quo is not sustainable.”
Protests have occurred in different parts of the world in solidarity with the women of Iran. Meanwhile, The Council of the European Union announced sanctions against figures in the Morality Police and the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) on October 17, citing human rights violations and Iran’s “violent response” to protesters.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the sanctions, and said in a statement on Wednesday that the Council’s decision was “based on baseless accusations,” adding that the restrictive measure “is an explicit example of interference in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
According to Pardis Mahdavi, the provost and executive vice president of the University of Montana, the Iranian protests are strong enough to bring about regime change, primarily as a result of international solidarity and the sense of togetherness felt among Iranians.
Mahdavi told Newsweek that the protests at the moment can best be labeled a “large-scale resistance” that is on its way to become a revolution.
“This is a truly intergenerational movement, unlike any we have seen before,” Mahdavi said, “people of an array of socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds are coming together in agreement over their dissatisfaction with the regime.”
“There is more support around the world at this time,” she added. “They have built large enough coalitions and are now discussing a transitional government. These are all signs of progress to revolution.”
Newsweek reached out to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.