'Death to Khamenei!': Iranians Defy Regime as Protester Faces Execution

In their ninth week of mass protests, Iranians aren't backing down in the face of a deadly crackdown from authorities and the threat of death sentences.

On Sunday, Iran's Revolutionary Court issued its first death sentence in the trials against the arrested anti-government demonstrators. It was against an unnamed protester, while handing down jail terms of five to 10 years to five other protesters, according to state media Mizan.

Iran Human Rights warned that "at least 20 protesters are currently facing charges punishable by death per official reports" and it has expressed its concerns that the Iranian government might move hastily with the executions.

In a video shared on Twitter by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main Iranian opposition group, people in Tehran are seen chanting "Death to Khamenei," the country's supreme leader who's been in power since 1989.

The official account of the opposition party reported that the chants were sung in the middle of the night, hours after midnight in Iran, and that protesters called this the year that Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei will be overthrown.

In another video shared by the opposition party on Monday, schoolgirls were seen protesting the presence of a state mullah in their school and forcing him out of the building.

Despite all the threats and the violence suffered by protesters at the hand of authorities, including possible death sentences, demonstrations are continuing across the country on the 60th day since the first mass demonstrations. They were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.

Amini was arrested in Tehran on September 13 by the country's so-called morality police for supposedly wearing an "improper" hijab. Three days later, she was dead due to a fatal head injury that protesters said she received while being beaten up in custody, though Iranian authorities have denied any responsibility for the young woman's death.

According to the country's government, Amini died of a heart attack and she wasn't mistreated while in custody, despite her body showed signed of bruising.

Iran protests
Protests continue across Iran some 60 days since the first mass demonstrations. Omer Kuscu/ via images via Getty Images

Women were the first to take to the streets, burning their headscarves—which are mandatory for women in Iran—and cutting their hair in solidarity. The protests, sparked by the injustice suffered by Amini, have grown into mass, nationwide anti-government uprisings that are now driven by dissatisfaction with the country's leadership, demands for more freedom, better rights for women, and the end of the Islamic Republic regime.

The protests have been met with force by the country's government, with over 550 protesters being killed in confrontations with authorities since the beginning of mass demonstrations, and some 30,000 have been arrested, according to the PMOI/MEK.

The non-profit human rights organization Iran Human Rights estimates that at least 326 people including 43 children have been killed during the protests.

Despite the crackdown, protests seem far from dying down, as the movement in Iran picks up support from abroad and from Iranian celebrities and public figures.

Videos shared on social media have been fundamental to letting the world know about the protesters' struggle against the regime and they have allowed people to see inside the country to share information about the uprisings, in defiance of the Iranian government's internet shutdown and heavy censorship.

Clips shared on social media on Sunday and Monday showed protesters gathering in front of the Dey Hospital, where imprisoned activist Hossein Ronaghi, who has been on hunger strike since his arrest seven weeks ago, was transferred in a life-threatening condition.

Correction 11/15/22, 12:53 p.m. ET: This article was updated to remove a reference to the Iranian Parliament voting for death sentences. A majority of the parliament supported a letter to the judiciary calling for harsh punishments of protesters, which could include the death penalty.