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The Death of a Young Woman Ignites Waves of Anti-government Protests in Iran

After Mahsa Amini, a 23 year old Iranian woman, allegedly failed to cover up her hair, “mortality police” arrested and hauled her into an Iranian police van. She was sent to a “re-education center” where she was to be taught modesty lessons. Three days later, Amini was pronounced dead. 

The mortality police is a form of law enforcement that oversees the control of firearms, detention centers, and most recently, “re-education centers.” These centers are intended for women – and some men – who have disobeyed the state’s regulations regarding modesty. Some classes that detainees go through include lessons on the importance of hijabs and at the end of their detainment, are mandated to sign an oath to further abide by the state’s clothing laws. Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, states that these “women are…treated like criminal[s], booked for their offense, photographed and forced to take a class about how to wear a proper hijab and Islamic mortality.”

Since the discovery of Amini’s death was made public, Iran’s government has denied being responsible for her death. Despite this, thousands of women have come together to the streets of Tehran to protest against the decades long oppression they have faced by the Islamic Republic’s mortality police. 

Long before the current formation of the Islamic Republic, Iran has been controlling women’s autonomy regarding how they dress. Every few years, multiple anti-hijab movements have swept the nation, often resulting in numerous arrests and maltreatment. 

Amini’s death has fired up women across Iranian cities to protest the oppressive government in which they live. So far, these protests have resulted in multiple reported casualties. According to the New York Times, “seventeen people, including two security officers, had been killed since the unrest began.” Majority of the protests are made up of large groups of women who are flooding the streets with “rare displays of defiance of the government and its enforcement of the country’s hijab law,” which mandates women to keep their hair concealed and to wear loose fitting clothing. 

Since the hijab rule’s implementation in 1981, Iranian women have been going up against the government, testing the waters of how they can avoid the law. Especially with younger generations, women have become more resistant to the law, including the act of publicly removing their head scarves, demanding change. These protests are intended to put an end to other discriminatory laws regarding issues of “divorce, child custody and the right to work and travel without a male guardian’s approval.”

As protests continue, women are setting their hijabs on fire and cutting their hair short to demonstrate against oppression that derives from the patriarchal system. The death of Amini has given rise to multiple mass protests against the oppressive state of the Iran Republic, a government wielding its tortuous grip on women’s rights. Iranian women are just beginning to fight for personal freedoms, and protests are expected in major Iranian cities in the upcoming weeks.

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