Suspicious Death of Mahsa Amini Causes Protests Across Iran

Protests are spreading in Iran against the suspicious death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, after being arrested for not wearing a hijab properly. On 20th September, protests were held in various parts of Kurdistan, calling for an investigation into the mysterious death.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, all Iranian women over the age of nine are required to wear the hijab, a religious head covering, in public without exception. Iran is the only Islamic country where women, including foreigners, are forced to wear the hijab by law. The ‘Guidance Patrol’ (Gashte Ershad), which cracks down on behaviours deemed against Islamic law, announced that Amini had been investigated for not wearing the hijab properly. On 16th September, while being investigated at a police station in Tehran, Amini suddenly collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The police exert that they did not employ violence during their investigation and Amini died of a heart attack, but eyewitnesses report the police brutally beating Amini and her family denies her having any pre-existing heart issue. The entire situation has brought into focus Iran’s misogynist laws that target women and several men and women have taken to the streets to express their frustration.

Large and small-scale protests continue in Kurdistan and in major cities across Iran. According to the state-run IRNA news agency, protests have been held in 15 Iranian cities, calling for a fact-finding investigation.

Local state and semi-state media outlets have been focusing on violence from protesters, such as reports of some outraged protesters destroying vehicles and buildings. Kurdistan Governor Ismail Jarei Kusha told the media that “three people were killed in the recent protests.” In Shiraz, a tourist city in the south-central region, one police officer was killed, and four others were injured. Rottpolla Shivani, Governor of Shiraz Province, said: “the protesters showed violence and shouted destructive slogans.”

Authorities estimate that at least 1,000 protesters have been arrested across Iran. A video was also uploaded on social media showing a police officer firing tear gas and wielding a baton at protestors. Iran has blocked social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., but some citizens are using internet bypass programs to access social media Dodo. As a result, the authorities have foretold even more substantial internet censorship, stating “the current situation in Korea and security issues” as the cause for media control.

In connection with the incident, the United Nations, the United States, and France issued statements condemning the Iranian government. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Iran for an impartial investigation. Iran’s customs police have been placed on the sanctions list for abuse, violence, and violations of the rights of peaceful protestors. Seven Iranian security leaders, including army units, were also sanctioned. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that “Mahsa Amini was a brave woman, and her death is another atrocity inflicted by the Iranian regime’s security forces on its people. We call for an end to the violence against people and the violent suppression of freedom of expression and association.” 

The current situation in Iran demonstrates a clear disregard for the rights of women as citizens and people and women burning their hijabs in protests is a clear signal to end misogynist laws. The international community must do its part to support the women of Iran.

Heewon Seo