Furious protests have erupted in Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed last week after being arrested and viciously beaten by morality police enforcing mandatory hijab, according to eyewitness reports in Tehran. Within hours of being taken into custody, Amini fell into a coma and was hospitalized after eyewitnesses said she had been beaten by police in their van.
The tragedy of Amini’s death has captured the attention of a worldwide audience, including celebrities, rights activists, and U.S. officials who have condemned the injustice of Iran’s mandatory hijab rules and the violence against women that is perpetrated by Iranian authorities. Amini’s death is a trending topic on social media platforms such as Twitter where the hashtag مهسا_امینی# had already gained 1.63 million mentions by Sunday afternoon.
Protesters reacting to Amini’s death at the hands of the morality police have been met with violence by Iranian security forces. On September 17th, hundreds of people attended the funeral for Amini in her hometown of Saghez in Kurdistan province, where protesters were filmed chanting slogans such as “Death to the dictator.” Some women at the funeral ceremony were seen removing their headscarves in protest of the mandatory hijab law. After the funeral, protesters approached the governor’s office where they were confronted by police who fired tear gas at them, reports say. Protests triggered by Amini’s death have been filmed in the capital Tehran—where protesters have been beaten by security forces wielding batons and targeted by water cannons—Kurdistan province, and other cities across the country.
In the wake of Amini’s death, many Iranians have experienced internet outages that are likely part of the government’s efforts to suppress the voices of those who are critical of the country’s forced hijab policy. Netblocks, an internet governance and cybersecurity watchdog, tweeted that a significant internet outage occurred in Tehran amid protests following the death of Amini. Many Iranians were unable to share content on Whatsapp or Instagram during this time.
The protests following Amini’s death show that many Iranians are willing to risk their safety and freedom in order to speak out against the Islamic Republic’s oppressive laws and cruel treatment of women. In August, Iranian women were arrested for protesting the country’s draconian compulsory hijab rules by sharing pictures and videos of themselves unveiled in public places as part of a social media campaign. The protests in Iran have challenged the clerical establishment’s strict policies which have curtailed the basic rights and privacy of Iranian women.
NIAC condemns all acts of violence and suppression perpetrated by Iranian authorities against citizens who have spoken out against forced hijab and the abuse of women by the so-called morality police. The Iranian government must allow its citizens to exercise their internationally-protected right to protest and air their grievances. Unacceptably, Iranian authorities have already deployed force against protesters in an apparent effort to stifle dissent. Rather than turn to bullets and batons, the Iranian government should meet its peoples’ demands for accountability for the death of Mahsa Amini and an end to the policies that put her life at risk in the first place. All Iranian women should have the right to choose their attire without fear of state violence, and the Iranian people as a whole should not be forced to put their lives in jeopardy when speaking out for justice yet again.