Year End 2022: How a ‘liberty-depriving death’ took women to war against Iran’s now-abolished ‘morality’ police

[Iran]December 31 (ANI): An austere regime known for crushing dissent with an iron fist pulled out all its administrative levers to trample protests by a group of women who stood up for their rights and dignity. But all it did was light the fire.

The alleged custodial death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who had come to visit her brother in Tehran on September 13, 2022, instead fell into the sights of the country’s so-called morality police. She was arrested, allegedly wearing her (headscarf) loosely, at the entrance to the Shahid Haghani Expressway in Tehrah and taken away by the guidance patrol, known locally as Gasht-e Ershad.

She was handed over to the country’s moral security where she died three days later, reportedly after falling into a coma.

The death sparked fury and civil protests rarely seen on Tehran’s streets, with citizens across age and gender blocking street corners and chanting death to the “morality police” they accused of killing the 22-year-old in custody.

While the regime claimed Amini died of heart failure, her family members claimed a cover-up saying she had been murdered.

However, according to , Amini suffered a heart attack after she was detained by specialist police and was immediately taken to hospital in collaboration with the country’s emergency services.

The flames of civil fury ignited on September 17, after Amini’s funeral in her native Kurdistan province in Iran’s northwest, spread to 80 cities, including Tehran, in no time.

As the protests grew, the regime, quite literally, rolled out the cavalry, with police in full riot gear unleashing a brutal crackdown on dissent.

Viral videos of the country’s riot police cracking down on peaceful anti-regime assemblies drew global criticism.

According to reports, the civil unrest that followed Amini’s death has seen several arrests and at least 17 deaths.

However, the protest fire had by then become a global movement, questioning Iran’s strict enforcement of dress codes for women, particularly the hijab rule.

And, in what became a feature of the street protests that followed Amini’s death, women set fire to their hijabs and cut their hair in a show of solidarity with one of their own who refused to go down and give in to the “dictations of morality”‘ the police.

While their unforgiving way of enforcing dress codes has been frowned upon, Iran’s “morality” police, who, according to media reports, have devoted themselves to putting headscarves right and shoving the moral pill down defiant throats, have a global notoriety of a kind it has, perhaps, never had. in Amini’s wake.

As protests raged in the country and beyond, Amnesty International, a global human rights watchdog, issued a statement saying: “The circumstances leading to the suspicious death in custody of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa Amini, which include allegations of torture and other abuse in custody, must be investigated criminally.” Viral videos of female protesters shouting anti-government slogans at a rally in Saqqez, Amini’s hometown, touched off a fire that soon engulfed the country.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist, shared a video on his social media account in September of women cutting off their hair in solidarity with Amini. She tagged the video with a message that read: “Iranian women show their anger by cutting off their hair and burning their hijab to protest the killing of Mahsa_Amini by the hijab police.” Violations of the dress code also drew red eyes from other world bodies such as the (UN) and the (EU).

According to a report by Al Jazeera, the United Nations called for an independent investigation into Amini’s death.

UN experts strongly condemned the death of the 22-year-old in police custody after she was arrested for allegedly wearing an “inappropriate hijab”.

In a press release, the UN human rights office said the experts also condemned the violence directed at peaceful protesters and human rights defenders and demanded responsibility for the death of Amini in cities across the country by Iranian security forces.

They called on the Iranian authorities to avoid further unnecessary violence and immediately stop the use of lethal force to police peaceful assemblies.

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by Amini’s death. She is yet another victim of Iran’s persistent oppression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of bodily autonomy and freedom of opinion, expression and belief,” he said. said an expert.

In October, a month after Amini’s death, a European lawmaker cut off her hair during a debate in parliament to express solidarity with the protesting Iranian women.

Swedish politician Abir Al Sahlani addressed an EU debate in Strasbourg: “We, the people and citizens of the EU demand an unconditional and immediate end to all violence against men and women in Iran.” Around the same time, in a statement from the White House, US President Joe Biden said his country will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable and support people’s right to protest freely.

“The United States will impose additional costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters. We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable and support the right of Iranians to protest freely,” Biden said in a statement.

Amidst the protests, prolonged internet disruptions were also reported in Tehran, Kurdistan Province and other parts of the country, starting on 19 September. It was noted as the third widespread internet shutdown recorded in Iran in the past 12 months, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

In another instance of Iran’s strict dress code policy, the country’s president, , abruptly canceled a planned interview with chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour when she refused to wear a hijab on live broadcast.

The interview was scheduled at a time when massive civil protests had erupted on the streets of Iran in the wake of the alleged death due to a violation of the dress code.

On Twitter, Amanpour said she was told to wear the headscarf and after her denial, the interview was cut short.

In a series of tweets, the anchor said she planned to discuss the demonstrations in Iran, including numerous incidents of women burning their hijabs to protest Amini’s death, among other issues.

“This was going to be President Raisi’s first ever interview on American soil, during his visit to NY for UNGA. After weeks of planning and eight hours of setting up translation equipment, lights and cameras, we were ready. But no sign of President Raisi,” Amanpour said in a tweet.

According to reports, she waited 40 minutes for the Iranian president to appear for the interview, until it was finally called off.

Amid the civil unrest over Amini’s death, several other occasions showed the plight of the Iranian woman under the guise of “morality” policing.

One such example was Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi, who competed at an event in in October without wearing the wardrobe accessories mandated by her country’s hardline Islamist government. She later had to apologize to the regime, saying it was a pure coincidence that she competed without wearing a hijab.

A text-only Instagram story posted on Rekabi’s account read: “Due to inopportune timing and an unpredictable call for me to climb the wall, a problem with my headgear accidentally occurred.” In another incident, Iranian chess player Sara Khadem took part in a tournament in without wearing a hijab, reported.

And, in what was seen as a consequence of the massive outpouring of civil outrage and protests over Amini’s death, Iran’s so-called morality police were suspended in December, according to the country’s prosecutors. That landmark decision came as the anti-hijab protest entered its third month.

Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said the morality police was “abolished by the same authorities that installed it,” The New York Times reported.

In the first week of December, Iran executed a man for wounding a paramilitary officer, CNN reported, citing state media.

According to Iranian media, it was the first execution linked to the anti-hijab protests to be made public.

The person, identified as Mohsen Shekari, was found guilty of using a machete to injure a security official while blocking a street in Tehran.

The security officer was a member of the Basij paramilitary force – a wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He was allegedly injured by Shekari with a knife at a protest in Tehran on 23 September.

Shekari was sentenced to death on October 23, CNN reported, citing Mizan Online, a news agency affiliated with Iran’s judiciary.

Furthermore, according to reports, several Iranians received the death penalty for execution during the nationwide demonstrations spurred by the alleged custodial killing of Amini.

Last year, in Iran, at least 333 people were executed, according to Iran Human Rights. The report further revealed that 55 executions were announced by official sources.

As many as 83.5 percent of all executions included in the 2021 report (a total of 278 executions) were not announced by the authorities, the report claimed, adding that at least 183 executions (55 percent of all executions) were for murder.

Significantly, India abstained from voting on a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to set up a fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged human rights violations committed against protesters in Iran on 16 September.

On Twitter, the UN Human Rights Council said: “At its 35th Special Session, the @UN Human Rights Council decided to establish a new fact-finding mission to investigate “alleged human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran related to the protests that began on September 16, 2022′.” The Iranian dress code, which applied to women of all religions, not just Muslims, required them to pull the veil over their heads and cover their hair and neck, Al Jazeera reported.

Over the decades, women have increasingly pushed back against the “morality” police, especially in the big cities, by wearing their headscarves far back and exposing their hair.

If George Floyd’s custodial death in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which exposed the country’s racial boundaries and created the global “” movement, was a moment of reckoning for the United States; the alleged killing of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s now-abolished “morality” police was no less a defining moment, which may have changed perceptions of the country’s women. (ANI)


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