For Yasi, the news felt too close to ignore: A young woman, Mahsa Amini, had died in the custody of Iran’s morality police, days after being arrested for failing to cover her hair modestly enough.
When protests broke out after Ms. Amini’s death, 20-year-old Yasi — the first woman in her immediate family to reject the hijab — ran into the streets, waving the thin shawl she usually wears over her blond hair in public, in a grudging concession to the law of the land.
“I keep thinking Mahsa could be me; it could be my friends, my cousins,” she said in an interview from Tehran, where protests have since raged every night outside her family’s apartment complex. “You don’t know what they will do to you.”
The nationwide protests challenging Iran’s authoritarian leadership, now in their 10th day, have fed on a range of grievances: a collapsing economy, brazen corruption, suffocating repression and social restrictions handed down by a handful of elderly clerics. On Monday, they showed no sign of abating, and neither did the harsh government effort to suppress them despite international condemnation.
But their catalyst was the death of Ms. Amini, 22, on Sept. 16 and its connection to the hijab law, the most visible manifestation of a theocracy that makes women second to men in politics, in parenting, in the office and at home.
Tossing head scarves into bonfires, dancing bareheaded before security agents, young women have been at the forefront of these demonstrations, supplying the defining images of defiance. [Continue reading…]