Massive protests have erupted in Iran after a young woman, 22-year old Mahsa Amini, died in police custody. Some have alleged that Amini was beaten to death by the police. She had been detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.
Iranian citizens wasted no time in taking to the streets. The demonstrations included many women burning their headscarves in public. As with many protest movements around the world, police were brought in to stop silence citizens, and the end result was increasing levels of violence.
The scenes in Iran are astonishing. How far will these protests go?
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) September 20, 2022
Dozens have been arrested and multiple have even been killed, at least 9 by the most recent count. This includes at least one police officer, as retaliatory attacks on the cops have increased. Protestors have begun using their superior numbers to run the police at of areas, after police came out to brutalize the largely female led protest into submission. They have have also set police cars on fire and even beaten officers.
Revolt in the city of Nowshahr this evening in northern Iran with several police cars set on fire 🔥
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) September 22, 2022
The Iranian state has promised a full investigation of the case, though their history may lead many to believe this is simply lip service. It might be too late anyway, as soaring inflation and a limping economy already have many enraged at the government. This comes along side of decades of subjugation of women in the country.
This growing sexism began in 1979 with the Islamic revolution, after which the wearing of a head covering was made compulsory. However, the wearing of head scarves was not actually codified into law until 1983. Since then, women in Iran have long been beaten, detained, or even taken to “re-education centers,” just like Amini, simply for not wearing a head covering.
Though this is of course not to say that women have taken this lying down. Fairly regularly, women in Iran have protested against the state compelling them into covering up. One such movement began in December of 2017, though far from the only example of brave women in Iranian history.
“The Girls of Revolution Street” was a movement that started simply by one woman taking off her head covering and waving it in the air. It started on social media, but eventually made it took the streets. While it didn’t achieve all of its goals, the movement did seem to help create some of the sentiment seen in the ongoing protests.
Just like in the 2017-2018 protests, some current protesters are calling for the ousting of Ayatollah Khamenei. Some have even gone so far as to chant “death to the dictator.” This has led some to speculate that this could result in the overthrowing of the ruling government.
Unprecedented scenes in Iran: woman sits on top of utility box and cuts her hair in main square in Kerman to protest death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police. People clap their hands and chant “Death to the dictator.” #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/2oyuKV80Ac
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) September 20, 2022
While this would bring relief to 10s of millions of women, it certainly won’t come easily. As mentioned above, there have been numerous protest movements calling for the ousting of Khamenei. One example of this was 2009-10 Green Movement, the largest protest against the government since the Islamic Revolution. While it did make progress, eventually the Green Wave, like other protest movements in Iran, was eventually put down through brutal violence.
Currently similar tactics have been used against protesters. Of course police violence is rampant. Also the internet has been closed off to prevent many of the videos that are currently on the internet to continue flowing, making state violence easier to get away with. This also makes it more likely that those outside, that don’t make a conscious effort to pay attention, may forget about the brave protesters whose ages range from children to the elderly.
Elderly woman in Iran takes off headscarf, joins the youth protests, chanting “death to Khamenei”. One of few in streets who knew how life was in Iran before the Islamic revolution 1979: pic.twitter.com/hz5BJ2j50E
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 22, 2022
Hopefully this will not be the case and those around the world will continue to support the incredibly brave women, and men supporting them, that are so frustrated with their government. The world cannot let their hard work and sacrifice be in vain. The people of Iran, as everywhere, must be free.