Death of Mahsa Amini

On 16 September 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini (Persian: مهسا امینی), also known as Jina Amini or Zhina Amini (Persian: ژینا امینی; Kurdish: ژینا ئەمینی),[4] died in Tehran, Iran, under suspicious circumstances, allegedly due to police brutality.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

Death of Mahsa Amini
Mahsa Amini.jpeg
Native name مهسا امینی
Date16 September 2022
LocationTehran, Iran
CauseSkull fracture caused by severe trauma[1][2][3]
DeathsMahsa Amini
BurialSaqqez, Iran

The Guidance Patrol, the morality police of Iran's Law Enforcement Command, arrested Amini for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards. Police said she had a heart attack at a station, fell on the floor, and died after two days in a coma.[11][12] Eyewitnesses and women who were detained with Amini said she was severely beaten, which, in addition to her leaked medical scans,[1] led independent observers to diagnose cerebral hemorrhage and stroke.[13]

Amini's death resulted in a series of large-scale protests across the country which garnered international attention, including a statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, putting a focus on violence against women in the Islamic Republic of Iran.[14][15][16][17] Several leaders, organizations, and celebrities around the world condemned the incident and expressed solidarity with the protesters.[18] The United States Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on the morality police and Iranian leaders in various security organizations.[19]

The government of Iran attempted to suppress the protests, shooting protesters with birdshot and metal pellets, deploying tear gas and water cannons,[20] blocking access to many apps including Instagram and WhatsApp, and limiting internet accessibility to reduce protesters' ability to organize. These may be the most severe internet restrictions in Iran since 2019, when the internet was shut down completely.[21]

Background

 
1979 Iranian Women Day's protests against mandatory hijab laws

Iran introduced a mandatory dress code for women, in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic standards, a short time after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. On 7 March, less than a month after the revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini decreed the hijab (Islamic headscarf) to be mandatory for all women in their workplace, and decreed that women would no longer be allowed to enter the workplace or any government office unveiled, which he termed as "naked".[22][23]

Violence and harassment against women not wearing the hijab in accordance with Iranian government standards had become common after the revolution, whether by law enforcement personnel or pro-regime vigilantes.[24] From 1980, women could not enter government or public buildings or attend their workplace without hijab. In 1983, mandatory hijab in public was introduced in the penal code, stating that "women who appear in public without religious hijab will be sentenced to whipping up to 74 lashes". But in practice a number of women, such as Saba Kord Afshari and Yasaman Aryani, were sentenced to heavy prison terms.[23]

The dress rules serve as a general guideline, the details of which depend on the context, but commonly impose covering the hair and wearing loose-fitting clothes that cover the chest. A less strict dress code is imposed on men as well.[25] As of December 2021, Article 638 of the law imposes 2 to 10 days of imprisonment, and a 50,000 to 500,000 IRR fine, for "un-Islamic dress code".[26]

In the last decade, clothing in Iranian society underwent significant changes, and young women in particular tend to be more liberal about hijab rules, prompting the Guidance Patrol, Iran's morality police, to launch intermittent campaigns to verbally admonish or violently[27][28][29][30][31][32] arrest and "re-educate" women they considered to be wearing the hijab incorrectly. Under routine circumstances, the detainees are brought to a center where they are re-instructed in the dress regulations for hours, before being made to sign a pledge to uphold said regulations, and then being allowed to leave with their family.[25][26]

Protests against the compulsory hijab have been common since 1979, with one of the largest protests taking place between 8 and 14 March 1979, beginning on International Women's Day and a day after hijab rules were introduced by the Islamic Republic.[23] Protests against mandatory hijab rules continued, such as during the 2019–2020 Iranian protests, when protesters attacked a Guidance Patrol van and freed two detained women.[33]

In 2020, Iran’s government Leader Ali Khamenei was quoted for saying that "improperly veiled women should be made to feel unsafe", a statement that was supported by other officials and clerics and paved the way to more violence against women.[34][35] Among the general population, however, an independent survey conducted in the same year showed that 58% of Iranians did not believe in hijab altogether, and 72% were against compulsory hijab rules. Only 15% insisted on the legal obligation to wear it in public.[36][37]

Circumstances of death

On 13 September 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Saqqez, Kurdistan Province, Iran, was arrested by the Guidance Patrol at the entry of Shahid Haghani Expressway while in Tehran with her family. She was then transferred to the custody of the Moral Security agency.[38][39][40] Her brother, Kiaresh (Ashkan) Amini, who had been with her when she was arrested, was told she would be taken to the detention center to undergo a "briefing class" and released an hour later. Her brother waited at the police station for two hours, and he was informed his sister had had a heart attack and a brain seizure. She was taken to Kasra Hospital by ambulance.[41][42][43]

According to Amini's cousin, Erfan Mortezaei, she was tortured and insulted in the van, as witnessed by her co-detainees. After she arrived at the police station, she began to lose vision and fainted. It took 30 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, and an hour and a half for her to get to Kasra hospital.[44]

For two days, Amini was in a coma in Kasra Hospital in Tehran, which led to a protest against the Guidance Patrol and the law on hijab.[45] She died in the intensive care unit on 16 September.[46][7][47]

Evidence of violence

 
Kasra Hospital was the place where Amini died.

The clinic where Amini was treated released a statement on Instagram saying that she was brain dead when she was admitted. The Instagram post has since been deleted.[48][49]

Amini's brother, Kiaresh, noticed bruises on her head and legs. The women who were detained with Amini said she had been severely beaten for resisting the insults and curses of the officers who had arrested her.[50]

A number of doctors opined that Amini suffered a brain injury based on the clinical symptoms, including bleeding from the ears and bruises under the eyes.[51] This was also confirmed by alleged medical scans of her skull, leaked by hacktivists, showing bone fracture, hemorrhage, and brain edema.[1][52]

According to Iran International, the Iranian government was forging fake medical records for Mahsa Amini, showing that she had a history of heart disease. On 20 September, Dr. Massoud Shirvani, a neurosurgeron, claimed on a State-owned TV that Amini had a brain tumor that was extracted at the age of 8.[53]

By 21 September, the hospital had released preliminary CT scans. Government supporters stated the CT scans showed psychological stress caused by a previous brain operation; critics stated the scans showed physical beating and trauma. The Iranian government stated Amini had a brain operation at the age of five.[54] Amini's father stated "They are lying... She never had any medical conditions, she never had surgery." Two classmates, interviewed by the BBC, said that they weren't aware of Amini ever being in the hospital.[55]

On 29 September an audio file was released by a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, which reports unnamed "reliable sources" saying that the reason for Amini's death was an injury to her skull and that the injury was the result of a severe beating.[56][57][58]

Protests

On the streets

 
People protest against Mahsa Amini's killing in Tehran's Keshavarz Blvd

On 17 September, hours after Mahsa Amini died, demonstrators gathered outside Kasra Hospital in Tehran, where Amini had been treated. Human rights groups reported that security forces deployed pepper spray against protesters and that several were arrested.[59] Then a series of protests broke out over Amini's death, including in Saqqez, her hometown.[60] Some shouted "death to the dictator", and Kurdish feminist slogans such as "woman, life, freedom".[61][62][60]

A spokesperson for Hengaw, a Kurdish human rights group, stated that "the security institutions forced the Amini family to hold the funeral without any ceremony to prevent tensions." Kurdish civil society organizations were also reported to have called for a general strike in all of Kurdistan.[61]

From 18 September, protests and marches spread day by day in different cities. The streets of Sanandaj on Sunday were partially closed and security forces were scattered throughout the city following a night of protests against the Islamic Republic of Iran's strict dress code.[63]

According to the Hengaw Human Rights Organization, security forces fired on protesters in Kurdistan on 19 September, killing five—two in Amini's hometown, Saqqez;[64] two in the town of Divandarreh; and one in Dehgolan.[65] Popular demonstrations spread to other cities of Iran, including Tehran, Rasht, Esfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Sanandaj, Saqqez, Ilam, and other cities and the special police of the Iranian government dealt with these protests severely, as a result of which many were injured, and some political activists were arrested.[66][67]

On 20 September, the protests continued and people marched in Tehran, Sari, Tabriz, Mashhad, Qom, Kerman, Hamedan, Sanandaj and Kish, and other cities chanting slogans against the mandatory hijab and the principle of Islamic government. In Sari, women burned their hijabs on a bonfire to cheering crowds.[68] Protesters in Toronto, Istanbul, London and some other European and American cities gathered and condemned the Islamic government's crimes against women in Iran.[69] The government confirmed that three people were killed in the protests.[70]

On 22 September, protests in Tehran and other cities led to police stations and cars being burned.[71]

According to Iran Human Rights, as of 25 September, at least 54 people had been killed and hundreds of women detained and abused by the authorities.[72]

On social media

Amini's beating and death caused widespread anger among several social networks. The hashtag #MahsaAmini became one of the most repeated hashtags on Persian Twitter. The number of tweets and retweets of these hashtags exceeded 80 million.[73][74] Some Iranian women posted videos on social media of themselves cutting their hair in protest.[75] It was reported on 21 September that the Iranian government had blocked internet access to Instagram and WhatsApp and disrupted internet service in Kurdistan and other parts of Iran in an attempt to silence the unrest.[76] As of 24 September 2022, the hashtag #Mahsa_Amini and its equivalent in Persian broke the Twitter record with more than 80 million tweets.[77][78]

Reactions

In Iran

Mahsa Amini's father, Amjad Amini, was interviewed by various international media about his daughter's death and answered the claims of Iranian government officials.[79] In a phone call with him, the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, expressed regret over Amini's death. The governor of Kurdistan Province personally went to Amjad Amini's house and consoled him about the death of his daughter.[80] In an interview with BBC Persian, the father accused the Iranian authorities of lying about her death and noted that every time he was asked how he thinks she died, his response was mysteriously cut from local news broadcasts. He stressed that the Iranian authorities refused to let him see his daughter at the clinic, and that when he finally saw her body before the funeral, it was completely wrapped except for the face and feet, which had mysterious bruises.[81][82]

The well-known Iranian lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, described Mahsa's death as "murder".[83]

Investigation

President Ebrahim Raisi asked Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi to "investigate the cause of the incident with urgency and special attention".[84]

International institutions and organizations

  • Amnesty International requested a criminal investigation into the suspicious death. According to this organization, "all responsible officers and officials" in this case must be brought to justice and "the conditions leading to her suspicious death, which include torture and other ill-treatment in the detention center, must be investigated criminally."[42][85][18]
  • Human Rights Watch called Amini's death "cruel" and wrote: "Iranian authorities should cancel the mandatory hijab law and remove or amend other laws that deprive women of their independence and rights."[86][87]
    • Additional concerns were raised by the group at the apparent lethal force retaliation by government officials to the protests.[88]
  • Center for Human Rights in Iran declared Mahsa Amini another victim of the Islamic Republic's war on women and stated that the tragedy should be strongly condemned worldwide to prevent further violence against women in Iran.[89]
  • Humanists International called for those responsible for the murder of Mahsa Amini "to be held accountable", condemned Iran's "strictly enforced patriarchal religious norms", and added that "compulsory veiling is a human rights violation, and that appeals to religious 'morality' can never be used to police women’s choices, or to invalidate their equal dignity and worth".[90]
  • The United Nations announced that the death and alleged torture of Mahsa Amini should be investigated independently.[91][92] A joint statement by UN experts "strongly condemned the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody".[93]

Politicians

Politicians such as Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Farah Pahlavi, Masoud Barzani, Justin Trudeau, Masud Gharahkhani, Annalena Baerbock, Melanie Jolie, and others reacted to Mahsa Amini's death.[94][95]

  • Javaid Rehman, United Nations Special Rapporteur, expressed his regret for the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran and added: "This incident is a sign of widespread violation of human rights in Iran."[96]
  • France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the torture that led to the death of Mahsa Amini.[97]
  • United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the killing in the custody of Iranian police forces and demanded an end to such actions by the Iranian government.[98][99]
  • On 17 September, Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani of Iran described the Guidance Patrol as "not only an illegal and anti-Islamic body, but also illogical." He said it was unsupported by Iran's laws and engaged in "repression and immoral acts".[100]
  • Mohaqeq Damad said, "The establishment of the force for promotion of virtues and prevention of vice is in fact meant to monitor the rulers' actions, not to crack down on the citizens' freedoms and is a deviation from Islamic teachings."[101]
  • Chilean president Gabriel Boric, during his speech at the UN General Assembly, paid tribute to Mahsa Amini and called for an end to the abuse of power by the powerful around the world.[102]
  • Several European Union officials have condemned her death.[103] Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief called her death "unacceptable".[103] A spokesperson issued a statement announcing that what happened to Mahsa Amini is unacceptable and the perpetrators of this killing must be held accountable.[104]
  • US President Joe Biden, in the annual speech of world leaders to the United Nations on 21 September 2022, referred to the situation of women in Iran and Mahsa Amini's death and vowed solidarity with Iranian women.[105]
  • Robert Malley, the representative of the US in Iranian affairs, called the death of Mahsa Amini "horrific" and wrote: "Mahsa Amini’s death after injuries sustained in custody for an "improper" hijab is appalling. Our thoughts are with her family. Iran must end its violence against women for exercising their fundamental rights."[106]
  • Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, called the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody "terrible", and expressed his sadness at the deaths of "the brave women" at the protests. He added that women should be able to make their own decisions, and not live in fear.[107]

Celebrities

A number of celebrities such as Aryana Sayeed, Reece James, Paolo Maldini, Kourtney Kardashian, Dua Lipa, SZA, Iker Casillas, Hailey Bieber, Mark Ruffalo, Diplo, Jessica Chastain, Finneas, Kesha, Sophie Turner, Halsey, Bebe Rexha, Bella Hadid, Jessie J, Lily James, Pam Hogg, Naomi Campbell, Margaret Atwood, Nikki Bella, Pearl Jam, Damiano David, Flea, Adam Darski, Ebru Gündeş, Leprous, LP, Lili Reinhart, Maria Brink, Ava Max, Ashton Irwin, Gary Holt, Ashley Benson, Alissa White-Gluz, metal band Death, Misha Collins, Nazanin Boniadi, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Ricky Martin, Khloe Kardashian, Cara Delevingne, Kylie Jenner, 6ix9ine, CZN Burak and others reacted to the death of Mahsa Amini.[108][109]

  • American actress Leah Remini wrote on Twitter: "Killing of Mahsa Amini is unacceptable under any circumstances, but the fact that she was arrested for wearing an inappropriate hijab makes it even more appalling."[110][111]
  • Khaby Lame, an Italian influencer of Senegalese origin, wrote on his Instagram page, "The biggest war for women's rights and human rights is happening in Iran. If you live on earth and remain silent, you will never be able to speak about women's rights again."[112]
  • British Iranian comedian and author Shaparak Khorsandi, whose family fled Iran following the revolution, said "The Iranian regime kills women for trying to live freely. This is not just Iran’s problem, it is the world’s problem. Do not look away. This denial of basic human rights is an affront to human dignity. Mahsa Amini cannot speak up any more. The world should act in solidarity and amplify her voice and the voices of all Iranian women who dare to speak up for choice and democracy".[113]
  • Australian actor Nathaniel Buzolic, publishing a picture of Mahsa Amini on his Instagram, asked: "Where are the feminists? Why is the world silent?"[114]
  • Turkish actress Nurgül Yeşilçay published a picture of Mahsa Amini in her Instagram story and wrote: "It's unfortunate... Alas for all the women in the world."[115][116]
  • J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, posted on Twitter, "Then the rest of the world needs to keep saying her name. #MahsaAmini died aged 22 in police custody because she violated hijab regulations. Solidarity with all Iranians currently protesting."[91]

Others

  • The hacker group Anonymous claimed to have disrupted several Iranian government and state-affiliated media websites in support of the protests and released a video announcing the group's support of the protests along with footage of the protests.[117]

Sanctions

On 22 September 2022, the United States Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against the Morality Police as well as seven senior leaders of Iran's various security organizations "for violence against protestors and the death of Mahsa Amini". These include Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, chief of Iran’s Morality Police, and Kioumars Heydari, commander of the Iranian army's ground force, in addition to the Iranian Minister of Intelligence Esmaeil Khatib, Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, head of the Tehran division of the Morality Police, Salar Abnoush, deputy commander of the Basij militia, and two law enforcement commanders, Manouchehr Amanollahi and Qasem Rezaei of the LEF in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province of Iran. The sanctions would involve blocking any properties or interests in property within the jurisdiction of the US, and reporting them to the US Treasury. Penalties would be imposed on any parties that facilitate transactions or services to the sanctioned entities.[118][19][119]

On 26 September 2022, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that his government will impose sanctions on the Morality Police, its leadership, and the officials responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on the protestors.[120]

See also

References

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