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Protests in Iran Continue for Women’s Rights

Danya Issawi Oct. 5, 2022

Women Across Iran Are Protesting the ‘Morality Police’

Iranian Forces Led Brutal Crackdowns Against University Protesters

[Editor’s Note: One woman dies in custody for wearing her hijab in a slightly different way than Iranian law allows, and a revolution is ignited, not just for her death, but over decades of abuse and oppression of women and men under a theocratic state. The following article provides details of the three weeks of protest that have persisted in Iran since September 16, the people arrested and killed by police.]

Protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in the custody of the country’s “morality police,” have become increasingly violent since they began on September 16, with videos showing police beating protesters — many of whom are women — with batons and spraying tear gas and bullets into the crowd. 

Iran Human Rights estimates that at least 154 people have been killed, though widespread internet blackouts have made it difficult to confirm fatalities. (Last week, the Iranian government restricted access to several social-media platforms, according to a Los Angeles Times report, “curtailing it sharply between 4 p.m. and approximately 1 a.m., when most protests take place.”) Hundreds of people have been injured, and according to local news outlets, at least 3,000 have been arrested.

Amini was arrested on September 13 for violating Iran’s mandatory dress code that requires women, regardless of religious affiliation, to conceal their hair and neck with a headscarf. Amini was reportedly arrested for “improper hijab” while visiting family in Tehran.

After her arrest, Amini’s family struggled to find where she’d been taken and called on relatives for help in locating her. Irfan Mortezai, a cousin who had fled to Iraq in 2020, quickly joined the search after receiving a text from Amini’s brother saying, “She’s been arrested by the morality police.”

“We tried by every means to reach, her but the Iranian authorities did not let us,” Mortezai told the Associated Press. “I couldn’t reach her.”

Mortezai noted that he hadn’t seen Amini since he’d left Iran but had recently heard that she had been accepted to study law at a university.

“She was beautiful, always smiling,” he said. “Full of life.”

Police claim Amini suffered a heart attack while in custody at the Vozara Street Detention Center, where she had been taken to be “educated,” but Amini’s family says she was beaten by officers in a police van following her arrest. Iranian medical officials have suggested her death was caused by a head injury. Following Amini’s death, photos began circulating of her lying incapacitated in a hospital bed with tubes and wires all over her body, blood pooling from one ear.

“They have to explain for what crime — for what reason did they do this?” Amini’s mother said in an interview with the Iranian news media, according to the New York Times. “I am her mother, and I am dying from grief.”

Amini’s father told BBC Persia he believes authorities are lying about his daughter’s death. “They’re lying. They’re telling lies. Everything is a lie … no matter how much I begged, they wouldn’t let me see my daughter,” he said.

As protests have spread across the country, women have been at the forefront. Women in Amini’s hometown of Saqqez, in the Kurdistan Province, took their hijabs off and chanted, “Death to the dictator.” In Tehran, women ripped off their headscarves and waved them in the air; one protester climbed atop a car and set fire to her hijab. Women followed suit in Sari with a mass burning, tossing their headscarves into a large fire and dancing in celebration as they watched them burn.

Sep 20, 2022

@Shayan86

In Kerman’s Azadi Square tonight, a woman sits on top of a utility box, takes off her headscarf and cuts her hair as people chant “death to the dictator” on the fifth night of protests in Iran over the death of #MahsaAmini in custody of morality police.

In Sari, Mazandaran province, women set fire to their headscarves tonight during the fifth night of protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest by morality police over mandatory hijab law.

Riot police clash with protesters near Moalem Boulevard in the city of Rasht, Gilan province, on the fourth night of protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest by morality police for “improper hijab”.

A woman on top of a car bonnet sets her headscarf on fire today in central Tehran during protests for Mahsa Amini, 22, who died after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police over “improper hijab”.  

#مهسا_امینی

In Hamadan city centre, near the mausoleum of Avicenna, crowds chant slogans against police on the fifth day of nationwide protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest by morality police over “improper hijab”.

#مهسا_امینی

In Kerman’s Azadi Square, a woman disposed of her headscarf, took scissors to her hair, and, as the crowd around her cheered, chopped nearly all of it off. Women around the world have begun cutting their own hair in protest of Amini’s death — including Abir Al-Sahlani, an Iraqi-born Swedish member of European Parliament, who chopped her hair during a speech at the E.U. assembly.

Bella Hadid posted an Instagram message in solidarity with Amini and the protesters: “You did not deserve this,” she wrote. “Sending blessings to her family and loved ones.” Angelina Jolie shared her support for women protesting in Iran via Instagram: “Women don’t need their morals policed, their minds re-educated, or their bodies controlled,” she wrote. “They need freedom to live and breathe without violence or threats.”

For Muslim women, the choice to wear a headscarf is intended to be a deeply personal one, and Iran’s overarching dress code has been a point of contention since its adoption after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Women have long been arrested for pushing back against modesty laws, including in 2017, when 29 women were arrested for going without their hijabs in public.

Amnesty International has denounced the actions of the morality police, calling for a criminal investigation into Amini’s “suspicious death” and the circumstances around it, “which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody.” The human-rights group called for “global action” regarding the deadly crackdowns against the protests. According to the Times,  Niloufar Hamedi, a female journalist who was the first to bring attention to Amini’s story, has been arrested and is being held in solitary confinement. At least 17 journalists have been detained since protests broke out.

Shayan Sardarizadeh

@Shayan86

In Kerman’s Azadi Square tonight, a woman sits on top of a utility box, takes off her headscarf and cuts her hair as people chant “death to the dictator” on the fifth night of protests in Iran over the death of #MahsaAmini in custody of morality police.

On September 16, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi ordered the interior minister to investigate the case and reportedly called Amini’s family to assure them that action would be taken. “Your daughter is like my own daughter, and I feel that this incident happened to one of my loved ones,” he said.

Journalist Christiane Amanpour was slated to sit down with Raisi a few days later but said an aide told her the interview wouldn’t happen unless she wore a headscarf. “I politely declined,” Amanpour wrote in a Twitter thread. “We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves. I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran.”

Amanpour said she told his aide that she “couldn’t agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition.” She went on to write, “The interview didn’t happen. As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to speak with President Raisi.”

In an interview with state television, Raisi said that the “chaos is unacceptable,” despite his being “saddened by this tragic incident.”

“One cannot allow people to disturb the peace of society through riots,” he added.

On Monday, October 3, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the U.S. and Israel for the unrest. “This rioting was planned,” he said. “These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime and their employees.”

Despite the display of force by Iranian forces, people are still taking to the streets. In September, women of all ages set fire to their hijabs in Gonbad-e Kavous as protesters chanted, “Don’t be afraid. We’re all together.”

On Sunday, October, 2, at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, where student protests were being held, riot police confronted hundreds of students with force. Officers reportedly used tear gas, paintball guns, and nonlethal steel-pellet guns.

Students at Sharif were participating in silent sit-ins in department buildings, boycotting class, and taking part in chants near the main entrance of the university, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Special forces arrived shortly thereafter and reportedly encircled the students, shooting at those trying to leave. The organization noted that there were reports of forces “arresting students, covering them with plastic bags, beating them and taking them to unknown locations,” estimating that at least 30 students had been arrested. 

Since then, the university has announced that only doctoral students would be allowed on campus until further notice, and protests have spread to other universities across the country.

Iranian journalist Omid Memarian tweeted a video of students at the University of Isfahan protesting in the hundreds in solidarity with fellow students at Sharif University.

Omid Memarian

@Omid_M

This morning: 100s of students at Isfahan University protest in support of Sharif University students, who were attacked by security forces yesterday. The crackdown on Sharif students will inflame student protests throughout Iran. #MahsaAmini #مهسا_امینی

A similar scene unfolded over the weekend at the Islamic Azad University in Tehran, where students, many dressed in black, gathered and removed their scarves in defiance of the country’s modesty laws.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said “a government that beats and attacks its own children for peacefully protesting egregious state abuses is one that has lost all connection to its people, all respect for the law, and any semblance of humanity.” Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has said that authorities should be prepared to counter the protests by young Iranians, per BBC News, and claimed that Iranian youth have been influenced by their exposure to the internet.

In recent days, anger has erupted around the death of Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old protester. BBC Persian reported on Tuesday, October 4, that Shakarami had sent a final message to a friend saying she was being chased by security forces before going missing for ten days following protests in Tehran on September 20. Shakarami’s family reportedly found her body in a morgue at a detention center in the capital.

“When we went to identify her, they didn’t allow us to see her body, only her face for a few seconds,” Atash Shakarami, Nika’s aunt, told the BBC.

Shakarami’s family says they transferred her body to Khorramabad on Sunday, October 2, which would have been her 17th birthday. They say security forces stole Shakarami’s body after she had been transferred and buried her in Veysian.

As news spread of Shakarami’s death and improper burial, hundreds of protesters gathered in a cemetery in Khorramabad, chanting “Death to the dictator” and other anti-government slogans. Shakarami’s aunt, who’d posted about her death on social media, has since been arrested and had her home raided by Iranian forces.

The BBC points out that this isn’t the first time government officials have used protester’s bodies as bargaining chips. Hadis Najafi, a 22-year-old protester, was shot in the head and neck by forces in Karaj on September 21, according to her sister. Sources close to the family told the BBC that officials had refused to return Najafi’s body to her family until her father agreed to say she had died of a heart attack. In Najafi’s final video message to friends, she’d said, “I hope in a few years when I look back, I will be happy that everything has changed for the better.”

This post has been updated.

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This entry was posted on 2022/10/07 by .

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