• Milliana Gill-Mehan

The fight for women's freedom ensues in Iran

By MILLIANA GILL-MEHAN

Protests have taken place across the world in solidarity with Mahsa Amini and Iranian women


Iranian women are continuing their battle for freedom as protests now reach their fourth week, sparked by the horrific death of Mahsa Amini on the 13th September in Tehran. The 22-year-old was arrested for wearing her hijab incorrectly, reportedly having some of her hair showing. She was taken into a police van to be “educated”, before being brutally beaten and putting her into a coma. The family allege that the officers used a baton to beat her head and banged her against one of the vehicles. She died three days later.

The Iranian police deny that Amini suffered any harm, instead saying she suffered a “sudden heart failure” due to an “underlying illness”. Her family rejects this claim, and her father holds the police entirely responsible for the death. Amini’s death comes following a growing number of reports of repressive acts against women, especially with respect to compliance with the strict Islamic dress code. Women have been barred from entering government offices and banks as a result.

Justifiably, protests have been growing throughout Iran, demonstrating solidarity against the oppressive regime. The protests have spread to most of Iran’s 31 provinces, with the President Ebrahim Raisi pledging to “deal decisively” in response. Many Iranians blame the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, with a video circulating showing him endorsing the role of the “morality police” and emphasising the enforcement of women to observe the Islamic dress code. The so-called morality police use the threat of detention and violence to control what Iranian women wear and how they act. Many Iranians, including those who are pro-government, are expressing their anger on social media and are calling the morality police a hashtag that translates to Murder Patrols.

Social media has been utilised effectively by the protestors to document the violent attacks that they have endured. The hashtag #MahsaAmini has been posted and retweeted over 100 million times so far on Twitter, reaching an all-time record. Videos of schoolgirls waving their head scarves over their heads, and chanting ‘death to the dictator’ and ‘woman, life, freedom’ in defiance of the strict dress codes have been shared. Women are also recording themselves cutting their hair as an act of defiance. Celebrities across the globe are following suit and further reposting to show their support for the protests.

However, the attention on social media has proved fatal for some young girls. Hadis Najafi, a TikTok enthusiast, recorded a video during the protests stating that she hoped in a few years that “everything has changed for the better.” She was shot in the head hours later. This event is sadly not uncommon and has rightly further enraged the protesters.

Violence has been a common tool used by Iranian security in reaction to the protests, firing indiscriminately into neighbourhoods across the west of the country. The increasing use of violence by the police has led to the temporary closure of Sherif University in Tehran after a crackdown on student protestors last weekend. State media have reported more than 40 people, including security personnel, have died; yet Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group, say that at least 185 people have been killed. That death toll consists of a large majority of young women and girls. The use of arms against the protestors does not seem to be stopping; the number of deaths will no doubt rise.

The international response to the protests has led many countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, to impose sanctions on the Iranian senior security and morality police. President Joe Biden said he was “gravely concerned” about the crackdown on peaceful protestors. The European Union is also considering human rights sanctions against Iran. Abir Al-Sahlani, a Swedish MEP, chopped her hair whilst addressing the EU assembly in Strasbourg to show her solidarity. The international attention that the protests have received gives some hope that change is around the corner.

What future awaits Iran? Although throughout the years there has been much resentment surrounding the ruling of Iran, this time it appears to be different. The widespread media - especially social media - and international attention is larger than before, whilst the protests are unified and have attracted many. The growing discontent towards the strict rule has been brewing for years. Could this be the beginning of the end for Iran’s oppressive regime? Only time will tell.



Image: Flickr / Alisdare Hickson


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