Iran's government has tamped down most protests. But anger and desperation persist A government crackdown has successfully scared demonstrators off the streets in most of Iran, but conversations with regular people reveal a simmering frustration with the regime.

Iran's government has tamped down most protests. But anger and desperation persist

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Six nights ago, I was in my hotel in Tehran, working, writing up a story, when explosions crackled across the sky.


KELLY: It was the eve of Revolution Day, marking the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, and the regime was kicking things off with a fireworks display. But as we leaned out the windows to listen, it was another sound that stood out.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Chanting in non-English language).


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Chanting in non-English language).

KELLY: "Death to the dictator," they're chanting. "Death to Khamenei. Freedom."

Anti-government chants - the same ones shouted at the protests that have shaken Iran in these five months since the death of Mahsa Amini. She's the young Kurdish Iranian woman arrested last fall, allegedly for not wearing her headscarf correctly. She died while being held by Iran's so-called morality police. Well, that moment the other night, straining to listen, straining to see who was chanting, watching for other windows softly opening and closing in the apartment buildings around us - it encapsulated the fault lines in Iran.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Chanting in non-English language).

KELLY: It told a very different story from the one Iran's government has worked to promote about what is happening in the country. We're going to spend these next 10 minutes considering the state of dissent in Iran. Where do the protests go from here? We're going to take you now to three places.

First up, we leave Tehran, drive straight south about five hours and arrive in Isfahan. That's a city of some 2 million people in central Iran.


KELLY: We've been told the shopkeepers of Isfahan are famous for making you buy something without your even noticing. And sure enough, within a few hours of arrival, we find ourselves in the bazaar, chatting with a carpet seller who, like others we interviewed for this story, we have agreed not to identify by name. He showed us his English workbook. He's taking a class. But you'll also hear our interpreter jumping in. How is business?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Now is not good. Four months ago, five months ago, a little better.

KELLY: And how much do you think this has to do with Mahsa Amini?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Mahsa Amini - she has changed life in Iran.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Through interpreter, crying) Well, they killed her. What can I say?

KELLY: You are very quiet. Is it scary to talk?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Yes. (Crying) I really cry for her - Mahsa Amini - three days.

KELLY: Three days?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Yes. (Through interpreter, crying) Because the whole nation loved her.

KELLY: You didn't know her, so is it because of something she represented to you? What was that?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: She's - now is symbol.

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: She's a symbol of - yeah.

KELLY: Of what?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Iranian people - women, life, freedom.

KELLY: Can you tell me - why are you frightened to say this?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Crying) Because I am here in Iran.

KELLY: "Because I am here in Iran," he says.

A few steps outside his shop, in the middle of Isfahan's magnificent Naqsh-e Jahan Square, I meet a woman, 21 years old, sharing french fries out of a waxed paper cone with a young man who looks like he's trying hard to impress her.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Nice to meet you.

KELLY: Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Welcome to Iran.

KELLY: Oh, thank you.

I ask about the protests. She says they have struggled from lack of leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: I mean, still, we don't have a proper leader. We didn't find anyone - I mean, an actual leader who love people. It's hard, and our government won't go easily, but we will replace them.

KELLY: May I ask, did you protest? Were you involved?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Not as much because, you know, my family didn't let me. It was so dangerous. But at university, somehow, you know, like, walking and saying that we want our rights back.

KELLY: How do you express that in a way that other people can hear it - in a way that the government might hear it?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: You know, there were a lot of students there. We walked all around the university, and we told some words, just telling them that - not setting on fire things, not breaking down anything - just walking and telling our rights.

KELLY: Peaceful protest.


KELLY: She says everything might look calm and normal in Iran, but the outrage - it's not over.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: The government arrested some people. They tortured them. So it's normal that teenagers and people get back to home and not coming out anymore, but it is not completely finished.

KELLY: OK, stop No. 2. Back in Tehran, we are making our way out of the labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar and in search of lunch when we spot a group of women not wearing the mandatory headscarves - so defying the law in Iran. We stopped to talk. One of the women, 36 years old, told me through our interpreter that she did not join the protests, at least not physically, but she was active online.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Through interpreter) I have to go to court tomorrow.

KELLY: Why? For what?

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: To sign a contract that she won't do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Through interpreter) Because of what I was doing on Instagram.

KELLY: You will sign the statement?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Through interpreter) I have to.

KELLY: Are you still on Instagram?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Yeah, (through interpreter) but I have to stop for a while 'cause if I sign the statement, then I will have to be silent.

KELLY: Are you worried about speaking to us - American broadcaster?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Through interpreter) Unfortunately, the situation at this time is that we are a bit worried about everything.

KELLY: A bit worried about everything.

Well, our last stop is North Tehran, an hour-plus drive in the city's famously snarled traffic. I meet a 20-year-old woman studying psychology at university, so she is focused on the stress - the trauma that Iranians are carrying after these recent months of protests and then the crackdown on the protests and now uncertainty over what the future holds. What you'll hear here is just the voice of our interpreter translating.

I wonder, has life - does life feel different now? Has it changed for you in any way?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: (Through interpreter) The psychological effect and pressure that has been imposed on the Iranian people - perhaps we will see the effect of this psychological pressure later on.

KELLY: Have the protests touched your life, or have you been involved in any way?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: (Through interpreter) This is a political question.

KELLY: This is a political question. She pressed her lips together, looked pointedly at our audio recorder. We put it away. Why are you here? - she wanted to know - a journalist asking these questions. Because I'm curious, I told her. I can see the protests have largely gone quiet, but I wonder if the anger that fueled them has. Another pause, and then she said, this kind of dissent - it doesn't go away.

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