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Local authorities, armed with heavy equipment, trucks and cranes, demolished the awnings and outside terraces of a dozen cafes in the town of Ekbatan, a suburb of Tehran, during the morning of May 14. The cafes are known to be a meeting place and organising ground for Iran’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” protest movement, attracting youth and and young women who resist Islamic dress regulations. Police oversaw the demolition, threatening to arrest any civilians or cafe owners who protested against the destruction.
The structures and terraces of a dozen cafes in Ekbatan, a middle-class suburb in western Tehran, were destroyed during the morning of May 14, as police looked on. Authorities cited security concerns and neighbourhood complaints for the demolitions, but our Observers in Iran say that few believe the official narrative, including the residents of Ekbatan themselves.
توی روز روشن با لباس رسمی و شخصی با لودر شهرداری و موتور پلیس اومدن. فکر میکنین برای گرفتن سردسته باند قاچاق انسان اومدن؟ رد آشپزخونه مواد مخدر رو زدن؟ مجرم اینترپل گیر انداختن؟ بمب پبدا کردن؟ خیر!
در حالی که مردم داشتن کسب و کار روزانه و عادیشون رو انجام میدادن ریختن و کافه… pic.twitter.com/oaDU60XUKi
— شهرک اکباتان (@shahrak_ekbatan) May 14, 2023
Images shared on Twitter on May 14 show the demolition operation in Ekteban.
Home to street cafes, markets and green spaces, Ekbatan has become known for neighbourhood solidarity and ongoing resistance against the Iranian regime. Since the beginning of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” revolution in Iran in September 2022, the town has been a hotspot of unrest, including protests, rallies, nightly anti-regime chants, violent clashes between demonstrators and the Revolutionary Guard, and even “free hugs” and dancing.
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Young people, particularly young women – like almost everywhere in Iran – are the driving force behind these colourful protests. These same young girls see Ekbatan’s cafes as a safe meeting place, where they can sit and chat without wearing the mandatory Islamic hijab.
Hammihan, an Iranian media outlet, reported that the demolition drive caused up to a billion toman (about 20,000 euros) of damage. Police threatened to arrest anyone who resisted the destruction, they also reported.
مزدورایی که تو اون محیط بودن میگفتن این کافه ها عامل فساد و فحشا بوده.
جایی که بعد اینهمه سال نه فسادی ازش دیدیم نه فحشایی.
جایی بود که کم میاوردیم میرفتیم یه قهوه میخوردیم و وقتمونو میگذروندیم.
لعنت بر بود و نبودت ج.ا که چیزی جز بدبختی و زجر باهات نیست
— شهرک اکباتان (@shahrak_ekbatan) May 14, 2023
A video pubished on Twitter on May 14 shows the damage to several cafes in Ekbatan.
‘The cafes have become a resistance front’
“E” lives in Ekbatan, and has been active in the anti-regime protests since last September.
They attacked the cafes at 5am and finished them off at 8am. There were many civilians and policemen on bikes, they had masks on to cover their faces. And they destroyed the awnings of the cafes where the customers can sit, because the interiors are very small. They had already closed some of them for a few days, but this time they really wanted to destroy them.
These cafes were our place for 10 years. There was music and happiness. And since last September, these cafes have become even more important because they have become a resistance front, a place for organising protests and exchanges. Moreover, the girls completely refuse to wear the Islamic hijab in these cafes, so these cafes have become a target for the Islamic Republic. And this was the punishment.
When we learned what had happened, we were disappointed. I felt empty, but once again we found the strength together to rush there and help the cafe owners get back up. We helped them pick up the rubble and reopen what was left of their shop. And now many more people, even those who were not regular customers, are coming to buy something, like take-aways, to help the shop owners. These shopkeepers had spent a lot of money on these outdoor patios, which disappeared within three hours.
Since last September and our fervent participation in the protests, the Islamic Republic has done everything possible to discourage us. They have arrested us, they have attacked and vandalised our buildings. They have even sentenced three of us to death [Editor’s note: On October 26, a Revolutionary Guard militiaman was injured in Ekbatan and died after some days in hospital. Islamic Republic arrested 14 people and charged 3 of them with crimes punishable by death].
They are threatening all of us. They have deployed more and more police patrols and militias in Ekbatan, but we have never given up and no one will give up, we continue to fight, stronger than ever.
Since the beginning of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” revolution last September, at least 530 people have been killed, thousands injured and dozens of thousands arrested in Iran.
This story originally appeared on France24