Anti-Government Protests: What’s happening in Iran After Mahsa Amini's Murder?
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, was arrested by morality police in the Iranian capital of Tehran on September 13, 2022, for failing to comply with the country's hijab rules in accordance with correct government standards.
According to reports, Mahsa was brutally assaulted by authorities, causing her to fall into a coma. Three days later, she was pronounced dead in the hospital.
Iranians’ History of Oppression
During the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Iranian authorities implemented strict dress codes for women. The leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, viewed women's equality as incompatible with the rigorous society he wished to establish.
In 1980, after gaining power, Khomeini imposed mandatory veiling and other restrictions on women's rights. In the years that followed, women were subjected to severe repression, including the loss of certain employment opportunities and the denial of family law rights (marriage, divorce, and child custody).
Protests for women’s rights are a regular occurrence in Iran following the strict laws being imposed.
What Impact Has This Had on Iranian Women?
Iranian women are fed up with the oppression and lack of freedom that their government imposes on them, which has led to the eruption of protests in Iran and worldwide. Additionally, non-Iranians are uniting in solidarity with women's rights in Iran.
Women and schoolgirls are cutting their hair, burning their hijabs, and chanting "women, life, freedom" during their anti-government demonstrations, resulting in more violence and deaths. The government is brutally and violently fighting back.
It is estimated that thousands of people have been arrested, and over 230 people have died in connection to the protests, including many children.
What are the authorities doing?
Video footage from the protests demonstrates the Iranian forces' utter disregard for human life by using excessive and fatal force, including the use of live ammunition, unlawfully against the protesters and but not limited to, bystanders and worshippers.
“The Iranian authorities have repeatedly shown utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and will stop at nothing to preserve power. The callous violence being unleashed by Iran’s security forces is not occurring in a vacuum. It is the result of systematic impunity and a lackluster response by the international community,”
said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
16-year-old Nika Shakarami is one of the many young girls that has died during the ongoing protests. Nika’s close friend, who was with her during the protest, claims Nika disappeared on September 20th after burning her headscarf and being followed and approached by security forces.
The same evening, the teen's social media accounts were deleted. Ten days after filing a missing person report and posting about Nika's disappearance on social media, her family discovered her body in a morgue.
The Iranian authorities buried Nika’s body twenty-five miles from Tehran without a funeral to prevent further protests. The authorities claim that Nika fell to her death from a building and that arrests were made of those working in the building at the time of her death.
However, following her friends’ claims and after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, people are refusing to believe the authorities. Another 16-year-old girl, Sarina Esmailzadeh, was also reported to have died of a cause similar to Nika Shakrami.
Authorities claim Sarina struggled with mental health problems and that she committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a five-story building.
On September 30th, protests were scheduled to show solidarity in response to these awful events. The protests were sparked by allegations that a police commander raped a 15-year-old girl after taking her in for questioning; he has since admitted to the crime.
After Friday prayers, protestors in Zahedan gathered at the police station; however, in an attempt to stop the protests, authorities opened fire on the protesters and even targeted those still praying in the Great Mosalla. This event has been named “Bloody Friday” and is marked as the deadliest day since the protests began.
The internet is a useful tool to be able to spread worldwide awareness of current events, but along with the protests, the authorities are also attempting to control and prevent this as well. Facebook and Twitter are two popular social media platforms blocked in Iran in recent years before protests began.
However, Meta-owned apps such as Whatsapp and Instagram have now been restricted, and Youtube and TikTok have been closed down.
Content is being removed on social media, violating the rules the Persian-speaking Meta team has implemented, including evidence supporting protests in Iran.
This is not uncommon in Iran.
In 2019, the internet was shut down for 12 days after people gathered to protest the country’s fuel prices, and over 100 people were killed. This has a significant impact on the Iranian economy. Still, the authorities have demonstrated that if they must choose between the economy and suppressing political discontent, they would always go for the latter.
What does this mean for Iran?
Iranian authorities are working hard to crack down on the protests and worldwide spread of the events but is it already too late for the government?
Countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada have imposed sanctions on the morality police and other key figures.
This most likely will not change the restrictions in the country or stop the brutality being imposed on the residents of Iran, but rather send a message to the authorities that the world is aware and that they will be held accountable for their actions.
People worldwide are already coming together to support the women of Iran. They are participating in local protests and spreading awareness online, and we can continue to show solidarity by contacting our MPs/Senators and donating to human rights organizations.
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Rachel Brown is an English Literature and Creative Writing student at Keele University. She is also a content writer at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.