Since the passing of a young woman called Mahsa Amini in the nation’s capital city of Tehran on Friday, protests have erupted in Iran—a country that historically has not looked kindly upon political dissent. Find out more about Amini’s life, her arrest by the Iranian morality police, and how her passing provoked a surge of opposition in Iran, especially among women, in the sections below.
Who was Mahsa Amini?
Mahsa Amini, popularly known as Jina, was a 22-year-old lady from Saqqez in the Kurdistan region of Iran’s west. She was arrested by Iranian morality police last Tuesday at a Tehran metro station, and according to witnesses, she was abused on the way to a detention facility. After three days in a coma, Amini passed away in a hospital in Iran on Friday.
Why was Amini held by Tehran’s morality police?
Amini was held, according to officials, for failing to comply with an Iranian regulation mandating women to cover their limbs with loose garments and their hair with a headscarf. Amini’s mother asserted that her daughter was dressed in a long, loose robe as required by Iran’s mandatory hijab law, which was put into effect in 1981 following the country’s Islamic Revolution.
How are Iranian authorities justifying her death?
Amini’s death was reported as a “sudden” heart attack by Tehran police, who said she was detained to justify and educate people about the hijab. According to witnesses, she had no known heart ailments, according to her family, and police allegedly beat her up inside a van, according to BBC News.
How is Iran, in particular, responding to the death of Amini?
Outside the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, as well as in Tehran and other cities, demonstrations have broken out. Women across Iran were seen burning their hijabs and chanting, “Women, life, freedom,” and “Death to the dictator” (referring to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader), as well as taking to the streets on Tuesday to protest the death of Amini in the Iranian city of Kerman, where women are required to wear hijabs in public. According to Jake Sullivan, national security adviser for the United States, the circumstances surrounding Amini’s death have the US “very concerned.”
In one video with 930,000 views, a woman can be seen using scissors to rip up her black headscarf. I started wearing a hijab on this day two years ago, and I chopped my hair today for #mahsaamini, according to the caption of the video. For “religious reasons,” the user said she did not want to have her hair chopped in front of the camera; instead, she videotaped herself removing the headscarf in order to “spread the word.”
One TikToker posted a video of herself cutting her long hair into a shoulder-length bob and said, “My heart goes out to all my female friends fighting for their basic human rights in Iran.
Non-Muslim women have also been paying respect to Amini on TikTok, declaring their want to “stand with Iranian women.” One TikToker joined in on the hair-cutting craze and posted a video of herself in front of a mirror with her head freshly shaved, along with the statement, “Canadian women stand with you.”
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have demanded that Amini’s death be the subject of criminal investigations. President Ebrahim Raisi reportedly urged Iran’s interior ministry to “investigate the cause of the incident with urgency and special attention.” according to Iranian state-run news agency IRNA.