Protests and videos of women removing their headscarves and chopping off their hair have spread across Iran after a 22-year-old woman died in police custody, arrested for not wearing her hijab, or headscarf, per the Islamic Republic’s strict regulations.
Mahsa Amini, fell into a coma and died of a brain trauma after her arrest on Friday by Iran’s “morality police,” Iran International said.
Amini’s condition “was such that she could not be saved nor was surgery possible because her brain tissue was seriously damaged, and it was clear that the patient was not injured by a single punch and must have received many blows to her head,” said Iran International, which spoke to a source at the Tehran-based Kasra Hospital.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran told the media that Amini was in Tehran to visit relatives at the time of the arrest and that “Amini’s family was told that she was being taken for ‘re-education’ and would be released later that night.”
After allegedly being beaten while in custody on Tuesday, Amini reportedly lost consciousness for two hours before being taken to the hospital. But police claimed that Amini had a sudden heart problem and that was the reason for her death. A cause of death will be determined after several weeks, government officials said.
Amnesty International called for a criminal investigation into the “circumstances leading to the suspicious death … which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody.”
“The so-called ‘morality police’ in Tehran arbitrarily arrested her three days before her death while enforcing the country’s abusive, degrading and discriminatory forced veiling laws. All agents and officials responsible must face justice,” the human rights organization added.
Anti-government protests are being reported on social media in response to Amini’s death.
Iranian activist and journalist Mahsih Alinejad, who herself has been targeted by the Iranian regime and is now living in the United States, posted a video related to Amini’s arrest on social media.
“Do you really want to know how Iranian morality police killed Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman? … do not allow anyone to normalize compulsory hijab and morality police,” Alinejad wrote. “‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood is not a fiction for us Iranian women. It’s a reality.”
“From the age of 7, if we don’t cover our hair, we won’t be able to go to school or get a job. We are fed up with this gender apartheid regime,” Alinejad said.
Alienjad posted videos of other women protesting Amini’s murder, saying, “Iranian women show their anger by cutting their hair and burning their hijab to protest against the killing of Mahsa Amini by hijab police.”
At Amini’s funeral, in her hometown of Saqez in Iran’s western Kurdistan Province, some women took off their hijabs to protest against the Islamic regime, while chanting “death to the dictator.”
Videos seen by the BBC showed Iranian police firing on a crowd while they marched on the local governor’s office to protest the young woman’s death.
Mohammed Parsa was shot during a protest against the killing and is now in critical condition, while another, 18-year-old Chiryan Maroufi, “was shot in the eye with pellets by security forces [and] lost one of his eyes.”
According to Iran News Wire, students rallied in protest against Amini’s killing at Tehran University, chanting “Woman! Life! Freedom!”
On social media, Alinejad denounced Western journalists for complying with the rules and wearing hijab when interviewing officials from the Islamic regime, contributing to its normalization.
“We Iranian women call on ’60 Minutes’ to watch these brave women who get beaten, jailed and killed, like Mahsa Amini, for resisting forced hijab, and tell us how a Western journalist sits in front of our oppressors with forced hijab,” Alinejad wrote, referring to an interview by 60 Minutes journalist Lesley Stahl, who wore a hijab to interview Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
As a backdrop to the protests, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fell ill in recent weeks, prompting the cancellation of all public appearances. Khamenei was dealing with extreme stomach pain and high fever, and underwent bowel-obstruction surgery, The New York Times reported.