Iranian Women Hit the Streets After 22-Year-Old Dies Over Strict Hijab Laws
Mahsa Amini died allegedly after being beaten by the police for not following Iran's strict hijab laws.
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The woman, Mahsa Amini, was travelling from Iran's western province of Kurdistan, from where she hails, to Tehran to visit relatives on 14 September. During this time, she was reportedly nabbed by the "guidance patrol," or morality police, for failing to meet the country's strict dress code for women.
Several witnesses said that she was then beaten up in a police van, as per The Guardian.
A video of her being purportedly shoved into a van has also been going viral on social media. However, the country's police have denied all allegations.
Police Say Amini Died of Heart Attack, Family Refutes Claim
As per Iranian human rights organisation Hrana, Amini's family were told by the police that their daughter would be released after a "re-education session."
Later, they were informed that she had been taken to the hospital, and was transferred to an intensive care unit, where she was declared brain dead.
On the other hand, the police said that the 22-year-old died after suffering a heart attack on 16 September – two days after she was allegedly arrested. However, Amini's family countered their claims, saying that their daughter did not have any health problems.
Pictures purportedly showing Amini lying in a hospital bed in a coma with bandages on her head and breathing tubes have also been doing the rounds on social media.
The incident comes weeks after Iran's ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi ordered a crackdown on the rights of women, and issued directions for stricter enforcement of the country's dressing laws, which has been in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Under Iran's sharia, women/girls from the age of nine are obligated to cover their heads and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Not doing so is considered to be a punishable crime, and can attract public rebuke, fines, and even arrest.
'Death to the Dictator': Protesters Take to the Streets
Several women took to the streets to protest against Amini's death, and removed their hijabs to mark their solidarity.
After news of Amini's death came to the fore, protesters gathered outside Tehran's Kasra Hospital, where she had been admitted, and raised slogans against the government.
Women also protested in Amini's hometown of Sanghez and raised "Death to the Dictator" slogans.
Videos showed protesters confronting the much-feared police in the country, with the latter resorting to the use of tear gas. In some videos, gunshots can also be heard.
Furthermore, #MahsanAmini has become one of the most trending hashtags on Twitter, with a large number of people expressing their condolences and showing their solidarity.
The Centre for Human Rights in Iran also shared visuals of women cutting their hair and burning the hijab to mark their protest against Amini's death.
Politicians and celebrities in the country also urged the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to speak out regarding the incident.
"What does the supreme leader, who rightfully denounced US police over the death of George Floyd, say about the Iranian police’s treatment of Mahsa Amini?" Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist politician and ex-MP, tweeted.
Global Rights Bodies Condemn Incident
The incident drew condemnation from the international community as well apart from national quarters.
Amnesty International demanded a criminal investigation into the incident and slammed the "abusive, degrading and discriminatory" veiling laws in the country.
"The circumstances leading to the suspicious death in custody of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa Amini, which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, must be criminally investigated," Amnesty tweeted.
Human Rights Watch called the incident "outrageous" and demanded the notorious hijab law in the country to be abolished.
"Outrageous. Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman, has died after being arrested because of how she was dressed. Iranian authorities should abolish the compulsory hijab law and remove or reform other laws that deprive women of their autonomy and rights," the body said.
Following protests and vehement condemnation, Iran's interior ministry and prosecutor have launched inquiries after being ordered to do so by the president, state media reported.
The Hardline Policies of the Raisi Regime
President Raisi, a purist and hardliner considered close to the supreme leader, has been working on strengthening the country's traditional laws ever since he came to power in August 2021.
The Iranian government had announced 12 July to be observed as 'National Hijab and Chastity Day to mark the importance of the country's rules over women and their bodies.
In August, Raisi had also signed a decree clamping down on non-conforming women and stipulating harsher punishments for them.
'Morality Police Said Women Without Hijabs Are Nude'
Following the decree and the declaration, women were arrested across the country for not abiding by the full extent of the hijab laws.
One of the most high-profile arrests was that of writer and artist Sepideh Rashno, who was reportedly beaten and tortured in custody before making a "forced" apology on national television.
However, several women disregarded the laws and took to the streets and social media to protest by burning their headscarves publicly or making videos and uploading them online with the hashtag #NotoHijab.
"The Iranian regime has thousands of undercover agents employed across the country to report women for not wearing a hijab," human rights activist Masih Alinejad told The Quint.
"I received a video from a woman who confronted one of these agents. The agent was recording her and threatened to get her arrested. The undercover agents are even harassing women on their dress codes in women’s sections," she added.
Another protester, 20-year-old Negin, said that she was threatened with sexual harassment by the "morality police" and was told that those women who do not wear a hijab are practically "nude."
"They (the police) detained some of the women in vans and tried to warn the rest of us. One of the cops walked toward me and said I shouldn’t be in this campaign against hijab. He was implying that women who remove their headscarves are practically nude," she said.
(With inputs from The Guardian.)
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