On September 13, 2022, Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police in Tehran. Her crime was the violation of Iran´s headscarf law, which makes wearing the hijab obligatory for all Iranian women, regardless of religion.
Amini was taken to a detention center, where she died three days later, on September 16, from a heart attack. Her family, however, has accused the Iranian government of murdering her and subsequently covering up the crime. Meanwhile, reports have indicated that her death was caused by a skull fracture from heavy blows to her head.
The now–infamous incident has caused massive outrage around the world and sparked hundreds of protests. The United Nations has condemned the violence performed by Iran’s morality police and has called for an independent investigation into the incident. The death of Mahsa Amini has not only highlighted the brutal acts of violence against women, but also the crumbling regime in Iran.
Protests over Amini´s death started on September 17 and have not stopped since. The current situation in Iran has been escalating for a while, with videos (that have since gone viral) depicting police assaulting protestors. Nevertheless, the protests have not ceased. For many Iranians, the incident has not only been about women's rights and the hijab law but also about the population´s fundamental rights. Iran´s greatest victims under the authoritarian regime are the Iranian people. The regime has, for decades, suppressed freedom and basic human rights, affecting the lives of their people.
Social media reports, showing the execution of Iranian protestors, have now been shared, with some suggesting that women who were detained will be raped before execution to prevent them from entering heaven. Iran´s practice of violating young girls before execution can be dated back to the 1980s (and of course, the weaponization of sexual violence against women has long been historically recorded).
Justice for Iran has since then been trying to disprove the denials regarding the victims of rape before execution. On social media Amini´s death has been more about the feminist side of it, however, both sides understand that this issue reaches beyond the scope of the hijab. A spokesman for a Human Rights organization said that “women started this wave of protest, but everyone else joined. All of Iran is united”. Her death has been an influential representation of the total discontent among the Iranians. The people of Iran no longer believe in the regime, and the need for change is growing daily.
The Iranian government has responded violently to these protests. Many people have been injured, detained, or killed in the past few months. There is deep-seated anger in Iran over the policies set by the government. Adding insult to injury, Iran´s economy has collapsed in recent years, while inequality has spiked even more. Especially young people have gone to the streets to protest inequality and human rights violations. Furthermore, the regime has lost legitimacy among some of its core supporters, which is believed to be due to the terrible violence inflicted upon past demonstrators. The anger and dissatisfaction that has been brewing for years under the Iranian government, has now formed into a full-blown revolution.
The situation in Iran has not gotten any better since the start of the protests, and the tensions only keep rising. Many people have died, and the death toll does not seem to stop. Iran is one of the most sanctioned countries in the world, and many goods are blocked. The people of Iran are suffering, with no way of even getting basic medicine. It is unclear if the protests can topple the regime, but one thing is clear, the Iranian people will not cease to stop fighting for their fundamental rights. Iran Human Rights has called for international reaction, and in November the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that the situation in Iran is a “full – fledged human rights crisis”. Whether Iran will witness any meaningful change in its government's policies is unclear. For now, the Iranian people struggle and protest for a better future, a sentiment shared by others worldwide, Amini´s death (and subsequent deaths during the protests) seems not to have been in vain. As the Iranian people struggle, the world continues to watch and wait for human rights to be upheld.
by Amina Kosovac