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Story So Far: Iran's anti-hijab protests

The protests began after Amini’s death, but reflect the anger of Iranians against the stringent religious laws.

Credit : Indie Journal

Bhoomi Arekar | Protests against the Hijab in Iran, which started over the death of a young woman arrested by the infamous morality police, have continued across the country for nine straight days. As of Friday night, at least 50 are known to have been killed in the protests, including security personnel, as per Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based organisation.

The official number, however, states only 17 people including five security personnel have been killed with officials denying the role of security personnel in the death of the protesters.

The protests began on September 16 after the in-custody death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran. She was arrested by Iran’s Morality Police for wearing her Hijab 'loosely' which apparently violated the law of the country that states 'wearing hijab that covers hair and neck completely while wearing clothes that are loose-fitted to not show the body shape of women'.

The law for Hijab was imposed after Iranian Revolution in 1979 after the country came under mandatory Sharia Law. Those who did not follow the rule, faced public rebukes, fines and arrests. Morality Police in Iran, also known as Guidance Patrol or fashion patrol, was established in 2005 for surveillance of women's dress code. They patrol public places like shopping centres, subway stations, city squares, etc.

Police said that Amini's death was caused by a heart attack after being in a state of coma for three days. But the witnesses confirmed that she was beaten up by the personnel. This led to the investigation of Amini's death. The results said that the reason of her death was cerebral hemorrhage. Amini's body was buried in her hometown Saghes last Saturday morning.



The protests erupted in Teheran right after Amini’s death in custody. The anti-government protests soon began to spread to 80 more cities including Rasht, Esfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Sanandaj, Saqqez (Amini's hometown) and Ilam.

Lakhs of women courageously took to the streets, burnt their head scarves and cut their hair on the street in agitation. Some took to their social media handle and posted pictures of chopped-off hair.

The rights groups reported the arrest of various students and activists from their homes for curbing protests. The protests might have begun after Amini’s death, but they reflect the anger of Iranians against the stringent religious laws.

While the anti-government protests have continued in Iran with the chants for the death of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his son, pro-government rallies were organised in support of the government with Iranian Flags chanting against America and Israel. The officials stated that their support with flags and rallies was ‘spontaneous’.

Meanwhile, Iranian journalist Nilufar Hamedi, was on Friday arrested in Tehran for being the first to publicise the case of Mahsa Amini. Hamedi is a journalist from the reform newspaper Shargh. The paper reported that two other reporters, a photographer and a political activist were arrested in connection with the protests.

The demonstrations against the government also took over cyberspace and spread widely on social media. There are several videos and images of the protests going around on Twitter and other social media platforms, under the hashtag Mahsa_Amini.

Following this, Iran shut off the internet in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan, and blocked access to platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp, in an attempt to curb the growing protest. Reports say the internet shutdowns are the largest since November 2019.

The US, in response, said that it will ease internet curbs on Iran to counter Tehran's clampdown on protests to help make sure the Iranian people are not kept isolated and in the dark. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also said he will activat satellite internet service Starlink, to provide internet freedom and free flow of information to Iranians.



Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi cancelled an interview with CNN’s veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday as she refused to wear a headscarf during the interview.

Raisi on Saturday asserted that Iran must 'deal decisively with those who oppose the country's security and tranquility, referring to the protesters. Earlier, he also called the protests unacceptable "acts of chaos".

In reaction to the protests, Indian Muslims' For Secular Democracy (IMSD) said "IMSD strongly condemns Iran's obscurantist, authoritarian laws and its murderous enforcement, as also the denial of the citizens' right to protest".

World leaders have also condemned Amini’s death and Iran’s regime. On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said in his address to the UN General Assembly, “Today we stand with the brave citizens and women in Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.” The US also placed Iran’s morality police on its sanctions blacklist on Thursday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also denounced "the brutal attack against the courageous women" in Irna. The UN has urged Iran to not use unnecessary force as the protest death numbers reach 50.