Mahsa Amini, a young 22-year-old Kurdish woman, traveled from her hometown Saqaz in Kurdistan province northwestern Iran with her family to Tehran to visit relatives. Little did she know that it was to be her last trip and that she would die in the custody of the morality police. Last Tuesday afternoon she was forced into a van by the “Guidance Patrol Officers” who enforce women’s dress code in Iran ever since it became law in 1979. Witnesses say Amini was brutally beaten in the van which Iranian authorities deny. She was taken to a detention center where she was to be instructed in how to dress decently along with other women guilty of the same violations against compulsory hijab. Not long after her arrest she was taken to a hospital and died three days later without coming out of her coma.
Iranian authorities claim Amini died of a heart attack, a standard official statement used for the many unresolved deaths in Iran. Amini’s family have denied the authorities’ claims of Amini dying of pre-existing conditions that would explain her having a heart attack. Amini’s father has fiercely criticized the handling of his daughter’s case from her being taken into custody until her death. In interviews he says he has repeatedly asked for documentation, video footage from the van, body cams of the officers and in the detention center but has only been met with unrealistic explanations and all of his requests denied. Amini’s father continues describing how the family had been denied seeing her body in the hospital in order to cover up her bruises. In communication with the hospital staff he was told that his daughter’s life could have been saved if they had brought her in sooner. Amini’s father has categorically denied all official statements given by the authorities on his daughter’s case and done so despite being pressured by the government to cooperate. Since Amini’s death, a top medical official has publicly rejected the official explanation of her death based on the images released from her hospital bed. From the pictures, which shows bleeding from her ear and bruises under her eyes, it is clear that Amini had suffered a head injury and not a heart attack.
Following Amini’s tragic death people have taken into the streets all over the country to protests against the regime and its violations of human rights. Demonstrations started locally in the Kurdistan province after Amini’s funeral but have now engaged the whole nation. Security forces have used tear gas, water canons and live ammunition against unarmed protesters. Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has since asked for an impartial and independent investigation into Amini’s death and condemned the disproportionate use of force against protesters. At least seven people have been killed and as many as 450 people injured. People in Iran have armed themselves with their mobile phone cameras and countless video clips are circulating on social media showing young people chanting against the regime, young women removing and burning headscarves and protesters identifying plainclothes agents among the crowds. Iranian authorities have said that they will investigate Amini’s death thoroughly while repeating that she had not been physically harmed in custody. During this time internet access has been disrupted in the country, both Instagram and WhatsApp have been blocked, a commonly used method by the Iranian authorities to prevent the spread of protests across the country. The interruption of internet access also allows for security forces to increase their violence against the people. On social media protesters have shared images of plainclothes agents, to instruct their fellow protesters on how to identify them. Plainclothes agents have been seen attacking women, beating protesters and filming demonstrators in order to put them in trouble with authorities later.
The protests have escalated since Amini’s death and is no longer only about the enforcement of compulsory hijab and the dress code in Iran but rather people’s mistrust against the government, the endless corruption and lies that infuse the lives of all Iranians.
While thousands of protesters risk their lives in the streets demanding their human rights, president Raisi criticized the US and the Western countries about the sanctions against Iran and demanded justice for the assassination of general Qassem Soleimani.
Meanwhile protesters in Iran burned down Soleimani’s picture in the streets. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei also failed to mention the widespread protests in his speech a few days ago while addressing a military meeting. The current outrage among the people represents a deeply rooted resentment against a corrupt, violent and criminal regime. This blatant disregard and discrepancy between the people and the government’s orientation should navigate the outside world in their dealings with the Iranian government. It is time for the rest of the world to practice what it preaches about human rights.