For months, Iranians have been protesting government rules, led largely by young women in their teens, 20s and 30s. Protesters crowded streets with signs calling for change, and women tore their hijabs off and cut their hair to show resistance against rules requiring women to keep their heads covered in public. At the height of the demonstrations, the Iranian government issued a harsh crackdown on dissenters, jailing many and even executing some in public for alleged treason.

There’s a sense that the harsh punishments have squelched resistance, but sources in Iran say the rebellion isn’t over. The loud riots have just been replaced with quiet defiance.

The collective defiance against the Islamic Republic that gained millions of supporters around the world inspired some women to continue to resist control, if at least in small ways. One woman in her 30s told The Wall Street Journal that she grew used to not wearing a hijab anymore.

“Seeing how this law has been used to oppress women has meant that it has no legal value for me anymore,” she told the WSJ. “I won’t say that I’m not afraid anymore. But the least I can do is demonstrate against the system, and show solidarity with others by not covering my hair.”

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How Iranians continue to protest the Islamic Republic

In Tehran, many women continue to avoid covering their hair, despite the law requiring women to wear a hijab in public that could have criminal punishment. Some groups are even protesting outside prisons where other protesters are awaiting trials that might end in a death sentence, The New York Times reported.

“Every protester who goes to the rallies in the street knows that he could be killed by a bullet … and even his body could go missing … but still everybody attends the protests just with this hope in their heart that they could send the Islamic Republic out of our country,” Saman, a protester who lost his eye after being shot with a paintball gun at one of the protests, told ABC News.

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What has happened to protesters in Iran?

Human rights groups say that more than 500 protesters have been killed for connections or involvement in the protests, and at least four have been executed, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the Times, by mid-November, 14,000 people had been arrested for the protests by law enforcement.

Demonstrations continue in cities across the world, calling for Iran to step back from some of the laws regulating and imposing religious rules in the country.

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What sparked the protests in Iran?

Protests began in September 2022 after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by morality police claiming she was wearing her hijab improperly. While in police custody, Amini died, and witnesses and human rights organizations claim her death was caused by a brutal police beating.

“The state did not expect that protests over the death of a woman from the Kurdish minority would spread into the whole country,” Roya Boroumand, director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, told ABC News.