A woman’s death fuels a nation’s rage: Iran erupts over 22 years who died after hijab arrest

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

The death of a 22-year-old woman detained last week by Iran’s morality police for allegedly not wearing the proper Islamic hijab has sparked a wave of protests across the country.

The outbreak of domestic political unrest and anti-regime anger over Mahsa Amini’s death coincides with President Ebrahim Raisi’s arrival in New York for the start of the United Nations General Assembly summit.

On Tuesday, a fifth day of protests over Amini’s death broke out, with little sign that the anger was abating. Protests were recorded in several cities, including Qazvin, Arak and Mashhad. There were also protests in the capital Tehran. A reformist news website published an interview with the victim’s father that provided new details about his detention by agents of morality and raised troubling questions about her death.

“When we went to the hospital, they wouldn’t let us see Mahsa,” Amjad Amini told the reformist website. Rouydad 24. “They covered her whole body so we couldn’t see the bruises. I could only see my daughter’s face and the soles of her feet. But of course I could see bruises on Mahsa’s feet.”

Protests over Amini’s death also spread across the western Kurdish provinces where Amini, an ethnic Kurd, came from. Protesters shouted at Supreme Leader Ali Khameneri, ripped off Islamic Republic flags and insignia.

There were reports of dramatic violence and chaos, often documented in shaky little video clips uploaded to the Internet, despite an apparent throttling of bandwidth in some regions.

In a music video, Iranian women can be seen and heard clapping and singing peacefully and happily until a motorcycle allegedly driven by a regime enforcer causes panic and screams as the women run. In another segment, a commander on a megaphone warns protesters to disperse as dozens of black-clad police officers gather around a police car and prepare to attack.

Another video from western Iran on Tuesday showed what appeared to be a lifeless child being rushed by protesters after being allegedly shot by security forces.

Iranian security forces have tried to quell the demonstrations with tear gas, water cannons and riot police, as well as dispatch pro-regime paramilitary agents against crowds of protesters, who sometimes respond by fighting them with stones and setting police vehicles on fire. Videos showed protesters hurling stones at fleeing police and Basji in plain clothes.

“I will kill, I will kill, the one who killed my sister”, they sang. “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

A protester from the National Council of Resistance of Iran gestures during a demonstration over the death of Mahsa Amini

(EPA)

At least two people were killed, according to unofficial reports. Authorities have played down the protests and claim they are being exaggerated and exacerbated by foreign media outlets, including the Persian-language service of the BBC.

Analysts said it was too early to assess whether the protests would threaten the stability of the regime. Authorities used violence and arrests to quell protest movements in 1999, 2009 and 2019, as well as sporadic outbreaks of labor, student, ethnic and regional unrest in recent years.

While protests in recent years have focused on specific economic grievances, the focus on the hijab issue and the role of security forces in the systematic harassment of Iranian women makes the protests qualitatively different, with women taking the leading role.

“There was a fire that was sparked by the hijab issue, with most of the protests led by students and women,” said Ali Fathollah-Nejad, an expert on Iran’s domestic policy at the American Council for Germany. “It was not triggered by socioeconomic degradation. It was triggered by sociocultural grievances.”

The regime will respond with an iron fist and will likely succeed in crushing this

Ali Fathollah-Nejad

The protests are distinguished by expressions of solidarity between groups often pitted against each other, with men filling the ranks of female-led protests and urban elites expressing support for ethnic Kurds who are often treated as an underclass in Iran.

Still, analysts acknowledged that the protests remained too small and scattered to challenge the regime, which has deep layers of security forces that have yet to be mobilized.

“The regime will respond with an iron fist and will likely be successful in ending this,” Fathollah-Nejad said. “As usual with these protests, there is no organization or leadership and that prevents them from becoming a threat.”

This latest wave of street protests began after Amini’s arrest on September 13 by feared “guidance patrols” as she visited Tehran from her hometown, the ethnic Kurdish enclave of Saghez. According to her father, she was with her 16-year-old brother at the time, approached by moralistic police when leaving a subway station. She begged the police not to separate her from her younger brother, but they refused.

said Mr Amini Rouydad 24 that a physical altercation occurred during their street argument. “One of the police officers pushes Mahsa and physically attacks her,” he reportedly said.

After he was placed in the police van, and other women inside the vehicle told him that she was assaulted by security forces. She was rushed to hospital on September 15 after allegedly collapsing at the Vozara detention center where alleged moral crimes are prosecuted in Tehran.

The news of his death sparked protests outside the hospital, which spread elsewhere. Analysts said the death resonated with Iranians, as Amini was not a political activist or journalist, but just a young woman living her life.

She could have been anyone’s daughter, and in that sense, some have compared the death and the ensuing turmoil to the case of George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hands of American police in 2020 led to riots across the country.

Police motorcycle burns during protest over Mahsa Amin’s death in Tehran

(via REUTERS)

“It’s about her being a young woman and a totally ordinary person,” said Azadeh Pourzand, an Iran researcher at the London School of Oriental and Asian Studies and a former resident of Tehran. “Each of us has passed Vozara at least once. All Iranian women in Tehran were taken to Vozara because of the veil. So that resonates with a lot of people.”

High-ranking Iranian officials have called for an investigation into the young woman’s death, but have also claimed that she passed out on her own, perhaps due to a congenital condition, a claim her father rejected.

The family’s outspokenness is also unusual and may have contributed to the consolidation of a movement around Amini’s cause. Typically, regime officials threaten or offer incentives to victims’ relatives to keep them quiet. The Aminis have refused to give in to pressure to keep quiet, while also showing political savvy by speaking to domestic media rather than satellite channels abroad.

“They said that Mahsa has heart disease and epilepsy, while I, who am her father and raised her for 22 years, say out loud that Mahsa had no illness and was in perfect health,” Amini said. Rouydad 24 . “The person who hit my daughter should be prosecuted. I will not allow my daughter’s blood to be trampled on.”

Raisi, who admitted to playing a role in the mass executions of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s, was already a controversial figure in the West and often shunned in international forums. The latest flurry will likely add to his reputation, although he is scheduled to meet EU officials on the sidelines of the General Assembly this month.

“If there were any consideration of a meeting between Raisi and any Western leaders, it would make it even less of a priority and he would become even more toxic,” said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi of the Royal United Services Institute. “The protests will hamper engagement or bilateral relations between Iran and European leaders.”

Some Iranian activists have urged the West to take a tougher stance on Iran over Amini’s death. Both the White House and the US State Department issued convictions. Many are outraged that Raisi will appear before the UN, while others are calling for an end to negotiations to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal that would offer sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for limits on its atomic technology program.

“They are murderers that you can’t sit at the table negotiating and talking to them,” Darya Safai, a member of Belgium’s parliament who focuses on Iran, said in an interview. “JCPOA and talking to ayatollahs will not be possible. We cannot give them the instrument to survive.”

A newspaper with a cover photo of Mahsa Amini

(VIA REUTERS)

But Tabrizi said he doubted the assassination or subsequent unrest would impact the effort to restore the JCPOA, which appears to be in trouble anyway. And in any case, the Iranians may not be counting on international help in their quest.

“What is so beautiful about Iran today and the way women are not waiting for a savior,” said Ms. Pourzand. “They are well aware that they are on their own and need to take control and determine their own destiny.”

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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