By Karis Kim
TEHRAN, IRAN—On Sept. 16, news of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini spread through the streets of Iran, igniting protests from angry young Iranians and people around the world.
Amini had been held in the custody of the morality police, or Tehran’s Guidance Patrol, for failing to properly follow the Islamic dress code for women. Iranian scholar Roxanne Farmanfarmaian explained that “when the morality police was formally set up, there was a great deal of pressure on women, often by just people in the streets or by random members of the police forces. And they were often harassed and attacked for not correctly wearing the hijab.”
In the eyes of the strict morality police, Amini did not uphold the dress code women were expected to adhere to in Iran. After being taken away via van by the police, she was announced dead three days later in the hospital after falling into a coma.
Iranian authorities claim her death was due to a heart attack, but Amini’s family believes she was hit and beaten in custody. This news provoked citizens, especially women under the age of 25, to begin their passionate protests.
While this is not the first time Iranians have protested against the government, a reporter from The Atlantic stated that “something is different this time… raw fury is in the air, a sense that protesters are girding themselves for war rather than liberation.”
Amini’s death sparked demands from a multitude of Iranians, especially Generation Z, to change the cruel policing and severe treatment of women of the Islamic Republic.
Calls for freedom from the Islamic clerical rule have been spreading from school to school since the funeral for Amini held on Sept. 17. The anti-government protests have continued daily, as schoolgirls shout,“‘The mullahs must get lost!’ and ‘Iran is drowning in blood, our professors are drowning in silence.’”
In several cities, protestors demand “women, life and freedom” and “death to the dictator,” crying out against the government, Iran’s theocracy and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It has been reported that the protests have spread across 31 provinces.
Viral videos of Iranian protestors have shown women ripping off their hijabs or cutting off their hair in front of a crowd, and several videos on Twitter have also shown the protestors clashing with the police, as tear gas fills the air.
The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group reports that “at least 133 people across Iran have been killed by the authorities since the protests began.” The authorities have yet to announce an official death toll, but they state “many members of the security forces have been killed by ‘rioters and thugs backed by foreign foes.’”
In Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, students protested peacefully. However, it was disclosed that the police “beat demonstrators with batons, fired at them with plastic bullets and shotguns at short range, chased students down into a parking garage, and brutally arrested hundreds of them.” Fortunately, many of the arrested protestors were later released.
Compared to relatively moderate former President Hassan Rouhani, newly elected Ebrahim Raisi has strengthened the enforcement of the morality police, causing young women to be “slapped in the face, beaten with batons and shoved into police vehicles in recent months.”
Raisi follows in the footsteps of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His conservative leadership puts young women under tight restrictions, controlling everything from their dress code to how they are expected to behave in public.
However, as Shadi Sahr, a prominent human rights lawyer, stated, “The anger isn’t over just Mahsa’s death, but that she should have never been arrested in the first place.” And as the worldwide protests have shown, the new and young generation wants change, and they want it fast.