A 22-year-old woman has been killed in the Iranian capital Tehran after being brutally beaten by the vice squad. Mahsa Amini was beaten and assaulted in a police van, according to witnesses, for not wearing her hijab correctly. The tragic incident even led to a lot of protest right up to her funeral. Displeased women waved their headscarves, angry protesters were arrested.
Amini was arrested last Tuesday in the presence of her family for not following the strict dress code. The young woman was indeed wearing a hijab (the headscarf that all women are obliged to wear in public; ed.), but part of her hair remained visible.
Amini was then put in a cell “to account for and be taught” about the hijab. On Friday, the news followed that the young woman had died after a coma. According to the police, she would have died of a heart attack and a resuscitation attempt was unsuccessfully made in the hospital.
However, bystanders had seen that she was beaten in the van and mistreated by the officers. It is suspected that a brain haemorrhage has been fatal to her. Her relatives also state that she was a healthy woman and had no heart disease. That makes a sudden heart attack more unlikely.
Her death once again sparked discontent in Iran with Sharia law. A lot of messages were posted on social media with the hashtag “murder agents”. Several videos also surfaced of women without a hijab being beaten and dragged on the ground during an arrest. In anger, ladies even cut their hair or set fire to their hijab.
“Death to the Dictator”
The incident has already been discussed in parliament. Several MPs demanded that the police videos be released. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the context of the facts.
Taxi drivers protested in a central square in Tehran, where there are many police, by honking. Protesters in various parts of Iran shouted “death to the dictator,” a strong swipe at 83-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A speech in which he defends the enforcement of the hijab duty is widely shared online.
During the funeral in her hometown of Saqez, the protest got out of hand. Angry demonstrators wanted to redress the local governor. However, anyone who came near his office was shot at by the security services and violently arrested. The stones thrown at officers were answered with tear gas.
According to NetBlocks, a cybersecurity organization, Internet connections were disrupted in many locations in Iran. Users said they could not forward videos via WhatsApp or Instagram.
Controls only stricter
Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Sharia law has required women to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothing. Many Iranian women opt for a middle ground and wear relatively tight, ‘western’ clothing with brightly colored scarves over the head, with part of the hair showing.
Young, especially highly educated Iranians have long been unable to agree with the strict dress code of Sharia. In late 2017, many women in Tehran climbed on ramps in the city, such as an electrical box. They took off their hijab and held it in front of them with a stick. This wave of protests lasted for two months. Dozens of women were arrested and two male sympathizers were sentenced to six years in prison.
The Iranian police chief promised after the protests that enforcement would be liberalized: women without a hijab would no longer be arrested, but would now only have to participate in a ‘re-education course’. That promise turned out to be worthless: the checks only became stricter and the arrests more violent.
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