By Zahra Brady
November 20, 2022
Since the death of the twenty-two year old Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022, Iran has erupted into protests over the circumstances of her passing: arrested by morality police for wearing her hijab “improperly” and violating Iran’s mandatory hijab law. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen her beaten in a police truck a few hours before being brought to a hospital, where she fell into a coma and died. In the wake of increasing reports of repressive action taken towards women, Mahsa Amini has become a symbol of defiance and resistance among the new generation of Iran.
The Mahsa Amini protests are the latest actions in the pre-existing Iranian movement towards democracy, a series of ongoing political movements, civil disobedience, online activism, and demonstrations that have exploded nationwide since the mid-2010’s. The movement aims to remove both the current government and the socioeconomic issues that have plagued the nation for decades. Fueled by low wages, unemployment, inflation, government corruption and ongoing water crisis, it has found increasing popularity since its conception. Both Iranian youth and their Burnt Generation parents (born between roughly 1966 to 1988) have become increasingly disillusioned by their leadership’s Islamist, heavily anti-western outlook—which has lead to the isolation of Iran internationally. Alongside issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation is, to put it mildly, unstable.
Mahsa Amini was not, and is still not, the only woman who has been scorned, beaten or killed for “violating” the modesty laws. During a raid on her school, Asra Panahi, a fifteen year old girl, was beaten to death for refusing to sing the pro-regime anthem. Similarly, authorities coerced professional climber Elnaz Rekabi into giving an apology after her hijab fell off during a contest, threatening her family’s property. The Iranian government has also exercised extreme force against protestors—seventeen year old Abolfazl Adinezadeh was murdered during anti-government protests on the 8th of October, shot point blank by security forces.
More than anything, the fight inspired by Mahsa Amini is a fight for Iranian women to have a choice, and to be protected for that choice. On September 21, women in the northern city of Sari burned their hijabs in a bonfire as a sign of protest. Schoolgirls had begun demonstrating by taking off their hijabs and waving them in the air. Ultimately, the liberty of autonomy is what these women are fighting for.
As the conflict escalates, the death toll rises, with 244 dead and 12,500 detained, and according to the HRANA (Human Rights Activists News Agency), 28 fatalities among security forces. With evidence of possible sexual assault being committed by police against women who do not obey the hijab regulations, suppression of media, and intense crackdowns on protestors, Iran’s government has proven it is more than willing to use violence against its people.
In its essence, the Mahsa Amini protests are the Iranian people’s fight for justice, encapsulated in the image of an innocent, made victim by the exact authority they defy–directly as a result of her status as a woman under a highly suffocating and violent regime. If people around the world fail to act, fail to speak out, fail to listen, who's to say anybody else’s prayers will go answered?
Image by Unsplash