Iran is experiencing wide scale protests and unrest all over the country. Firings, destroyed government assets, hoardings, shouting crowd on road, women holding placards and posters against the government are common visuals from Iran since few days. Police are using all their power and measures to suppress the protests and using gunfire, tear gas, and lethal force in return. As per the latest reports, 76 protesters have died in Iran by brutality of police actions. More than 100 are seriously injured and more than 500 people have been arrested so far. Protests are now extending in nearby countries also where women are coming on road. Iranian government banned the internet in the area to stop the spread of protest and Elon Musk announced giving free access to the internet from satellite to the people of Iran.
Women are chopping off their hairs in public and burning their hijab in fire on roads. "Death to dictator" and "women life freedom" are the demands of protestors.
Reason behind large scale protests
A 22-year old woman named Mahsa Amini was traveling with her family on 13th September. Morality police of Iran took her into custody for not wearing hijab properly. Her brother Kiarash tried to intervene in the matter to save her sister from being arrested but the police told him that his sister was being taken to "re-education class" for an hour as per the Iranian media website. His brother also went to the police station for the investigation and interrogation. As per the local reports, Kiarash heard the 'cry' and 'scream' of his sister while sitting in the police station. Suddenly, an ambulance arrived to take Mahsa Amini and she was shifted to the Kasra hospital immediately. The police told her family that she had a heart attack.
What happened to 22-year old Mahsa Amini?
On 15th September 2022, police published the statement that Mahsa Amini had a heart attack and that's why she was shifted to hospital. Family questions that how can she get a heart attack while being totally fit and that too in just 2 hours of arrest?
News of police brutality of morality police had already spread in the media and people started protesting across the country. On 16th September 2022, Mahsa Amini died after being in coma for 3 days. It enraged the people of Iran and wide scale lethal protests began in Tehran and in 10 nearby cities.
Women started burning statues and hijab in public. Some women also started cutting their hair in public to protest against such strict provisions to wear hijab.
As per the father of Mahsa, Amjad Amini, she was beaten badly in the van by morality police and eyewitnesses also confirmed it.
On this issue, the interior minister of Iran came forward and said that such accusations by Amini's family are not true and "morality police don't have the tools to beat the detainees".
A hackers' group got active in between and the photos of CT Scan of Mahsa Amini was leaked on the internet. The picture clearly showed skull fracture on the head in the right side and also confirmed the death due to brain hemorrhage and oedema. Hospital also confirmed the 'multiple blows' to the head. This leaked medical report outraged people of Iran. A famous doctor from the south province of Iran came forward with a courageous move and wrote a letter to the 'Iranian Medical Council' and asked them to "act honestly and courageously to clarify and reveal the truth". He also published the photos of Mahsa Amini when she was admitted in the hospital and her bleeding head is clearly visible in the pictures. This filled people with distress, pain, anger and grief. Women in thousands swept over the streets of Iran.
Morality Police and Punishments in Iran
Morality Police of Iran - This police force of Iran named 'gasht-e-ershaad' consists of men and women both deployed in public places to check if women are wearing dress, especially hijab correctly or not. This force was established in 2005 for this purpose only. This force is also known as 'Guidance patrol' or 'fashion police'.
As per the rules of Hijab in Iran, every girl of more than 7 years is bound to wear hijab in public places. For not following the dress code, women get arrested by morality police and they can be imprisoned for 10 days to 60 days as per the requirement. A fine of 100 to 1000 rupees in value can be imposed on them. They can also get a punishment of 74 lashes for violating the law.
Global support for Mahsa and women in Iran
Issue was covered internationally by media all over the world. Government tried to calm people down by releasing CCTV footage on government channels which showed a young lady in a crowd collapsing on the ground and claimed it to be Mahsa Amini who fell down due to a heart attack. Again, Mahsa's father declared it a false video to divert the attention of people.
On 18th September, president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi extended the condolence to Mahsa's family and assured them over a phone call that an investigation will be conducted into the matter.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada-Al-Nashif has demanded for the UN probe into the matter. The United Nations, US, European Union and others have criticized the lethal suppression of protesters by the Iranian police forces.
Many celebrities of Iran are coming in support of the protesters and demanding from the government to abolish the laws which are discriminatory against the women. Famous Iranian footballer, Ali Karimi has posted a message on his social media in support of Mahsa Amini and protesters.
History of protest against hijab-
In 2006, a campaign 'one million signatures' was run in Iran to abolish all the laws of Iran which discriminate against women.
In 2014, another campaign called 'my stealthy freedom' was conducted in which many Iranian women posted their pictures violating the rules of hijab and not wearing hijab in public.
Even on 12th July 2022 which is celebrated as 'national hijab day' in Iran, women came out in streets to protest against wearing hijab.
In recent months, over 300 such 'anti-hijab ringleaders' have been arrested in the country.
Laws on hijab in Iran-
On 5th July 2022, the government of Iran published a notification in Mashhad city prosecutor's office in which the government has shown intentions to strengthen and make more strict laws to make women wear hijab in a proper manner. Government is of the opinion that women are wearing 'improper hijab' and also women should not be allowed to wear stockings or high-heeled shoes in public as this might attract punishments.
Geopolitical angle of Mahsa Amini's issue -
Iran is a country surrounded by Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Azerbaijan. This is the nation where India is developing Chabahar port to trade with the Middle East.
Mahsa belonged to ethnic Kurd community in Saqez city of Kurdistan. Kurdistan is not any area, it's just a concept that some parts of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq altogether will form a new nation 'Kurdistan' which will belong to Kurds. Government of Iran has been quite harsh to Kurd community because of this reason. The protests in support of Mahsa began in this province initially.
Iran is in trouble at the world stage as the JCPOA deal on the issue of uranium enrichment is in the dark. Iran is already bleeding due to the US and the West's sanctions. Iran is cut-off from the SWIFT payment system which has disrupted its international transactions. Iran is in the 'blacklist' of FATF. Iran's slowing down economy is another concern for people. People are unemployed and inflation is getting high.
So, the issue of Mahsa Amini added fuel to the fire and has just blown people's minds who were already enraged due to many issues.