Hijab laws spark protests in Iran

Thousands erupt in protest following death of 22-year-old in police custody

By Patrick Gainor, Staff Writer

Protests began on Sept. 17 when dozens of women removed their hijabs and waved them in the air during the funeral of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in police custody for not wearing her hijab  correctly.

More than 75 people were killed and over 1,200 arrested as violent protests against the Iranian government continue into their third week in response to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini, a Kurd from the city of Saqez, was arrested by morality police in Tehran after violating the law that mandates women wear a hijab. Her family alleged that she was viciously beaten by officers during her time in custody and that her death was due to sustained injuries.

After news of her death broke on Sept. 16, an estimated quarter of a million Iranians took to Instagram to spread the news.

Protests began on Sept. 17, when dozens of women removed their hijabs and waved them in the air during Amini’s funeral. Over the following days, protests spread over dozens of cities across the nation  and quickly turned violent, resulting in deaths.

Photo courtesy of wikimedia.commons.org

Last week, the Iranian government retaliated by deploying riot police, heavily restricting internet access and disrupting services such as Skype, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Shortly after, daily outages and interruptions of service were reported across most social media platforms.  President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the rioters on national television on Sept. 28, saying that while Amini’s death had “saddened all,” his government would “not allow people to disturb the peace of society through riots.” He has also accused the domestic and foreign enemies of trying to “pit the people against each other.”

The Iranian government has deployed riot police to respond to protesters. Reports  from multiple sources say they have employed the use of tear gas and have beaten or shot protesters to death.

Several distinguished  Iranian public figures have taken the side of the protesters. Prominent singer Mona Borzuoei was arrested last week after posting a poem that elicited support of the Iranian women protesting. Ali Karimi and Sardar Azmoun, two top players on the Iranian soccer team, have announced their support as well. The government has said they will face sanctions, including an indefinite suspension from play.

The protests in Iran have garnered support from countries all around the world. On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden imposed sanctions on Iranian oil and petrochemicals, as well as modifying the U.S. policy on internet access in Iran to allow the protesters to access the web in response to the government’s abuse against their own people.

“The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery,” President Biden said.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement last week condemning the Iranian government, say the office “extremely concerned by comments by some leaders vilifying protesters, and by the apparent unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against protesters.” 

Experts believe that the protests are to escalate in the coming days with calls for a nationwide worker’s strike. 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres promoted peace.

“It is absolutely essential to show maximum restraint, maximum containment…” Guterres said.

“Workers’ strikes are sensitive in Iran because they bring back memories of the 1979 revolution, when collective labor action acted as a useful tactic that helped bring down the Shah,” Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington D.C, said.

He added, that with strikes already occurring before the protests began, additional strikes are more likely to increase pressure on the government.