The protests started small, outside the Tehran hospital where a 22-year old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini died last week after being detained by the “morality police” for an untold violation of the country’s harsh strictures on women’s dress. By Tuesday, the protests were racing across the country, in a burst of grief, anger and defiance. Many were led by women, who burned their headscarves, cut their hair and chanted, “Death to the dictator.”
The ferocity of the protests is fueled by outrage over many things at once: the allegations that Amini was beaten in custody before she collapsed and fell into a coma; the priorities of Iran’s government, led by ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who has strictly enforced dress codes and empowered the hated morality police at a time of widespread economic suffering; and the anguish of Amini’s family, ethnic Kurds from a rural area of Iran, whose expressions of pain and shock have resonated across the country.
Amini did not have any health problems that would explain her death, said her family, who could not fathom how she attracted the interest of the police. “Even a 60-year-old woman wasn’t covered up as much as Mahsa,” said her father, Amjad Amini, in an interview with an Iranian news outlet.
Rights groups say at least seven people have been killed in the demonstrations, the largest in Iran since protests erupted in 2019 over the cutting of fuel subsidies. In those protests, like the ones now shaking the country, the authorities responded by cutting internet service and resorting in some cases to the use of deadly force, including live ammunition. [Continue reading…]