Protesters in Iran began shouting anti-government slogans “Death to the dictator!” and “Khamenei will be overthrown!” directed at the country’s leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For such statements, protesters can be arrested, imprisoned and even sentenced to death.
Protests in Iran, including in the country’s capital Tehran, began after the death of 22-year-old women’s rights activist Mahsa Amini from the Kurdish minority. On September 13, she was detained by the vice police for loosening her hijab, a few hours later Amini was hospitalized in a coma, and three days later her death was announced due to a “sudden heart attack.”
According to eyewitness reports cited by the UN Human Rights Office, police hit Amini’s head on a car and beat her with truncheons. According to Amini’s relatives, she never had heart problems and they were also not allowed to see Amini’s body before the funeral.
Hundreds of Iranians, including many young people, took to the streets of Tehran, Sekkez – the girl’s hometown – and other cities, protesting against police violence and, more broadly, against the Iranian authorities’ brutal fight against dissent.
During the protests, several women tore off their hijabs and defiantly twirled them in the air, two protesters publicly burned them, and women also cut off their hair in protest. At some demonstrations, the police used tear gas, the guards beat protesters with batons, and the sounds of gunfire were heard. Protesters set fire to tires and threw stones at police officers. It is known about at least two dead and 25 injured during the protests.
Iranian leaders have vowed to investigate Amini’s death. They blamed the protests on foreign interference, without specifying the names of the interfering countries, and opposition from abroad, who allegedly used Amini’s death to incite public unrest.
Such rhetoric is used by the leaders of many authoritarian countries, whose citizens come out to protest, demanding respect and expansion of their rights.
- According to the rules adopted after the 1979 Iranian revolution, women are required to dress modestly in public, wearing a hijab and a long loose robe. The rules are enforced by the vice police, which includes both men and women.
- Iran’s former president Hassan Rouhani accused the vice police of being “overly aggressive”. In 2017, the chief of police said that women would no longer be arrested for violating the dress code.
- Since August 2021, since the beginning of the presidency of Ibrahim Raisi, the situation has worsened again. The UN Human Rights Office reports that the vice police are abusing young women, slapping them, beating them with batons and pushing them into police cars.