Young Woman’s Death After Arrest for ‘Improper Hijab’ Sparks Protests Across Iran

Thousands took to the streets after a 22-year-old woman died in Iranian "morality police" custody for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

Young Woman’s Death After Arrest for ‘Improper Hijab’ Sparks Protests Across Iran
Photo:Getty (Getty Images)

Over the weekend, thousands of people from all across Iran took to the streets for multiple days of protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after being arrested by the country’s Islamic guidance patrol. Under their custody, Amini allegedly suffered from a stroke and went into cardiac arrest, Al Jazeera reports. She died on Friday, September 16, after being in a coma for multiple days following the arrest.

Also known as the “morality police,” the patrol unit’s job is to enforce the country’s strict laws around women’s dress code, which includes wearing a hijab. Amini was detained earlier last week for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly. Protesters are calling for an in-depth investigation of what really happened to Amini while at the guidance facility— some suspect that she was beaten while in custody, which authorities have vehemently denied.

Videos show crowds of people gathered outside Amini’s funeral in her hometown of Saqqez on Saturday, with women waving their head scarves in the air while chanting “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Demonstrators also gathered outside the governor’s office in Saqqez after the funeral, where security forces deployed pepper spray, injuring about 30 people, according to The Guardian.

Al Jazeera reports that after Amini was arrested for her dress code violation, she was brought to a “guidance center” where she would allegedly be instructed on how to wear the hijab properly. After speaking with a facility personnel, a video circulated by multiple Iranian news outlets shows Amini collapsing to the ground, allegedly because of a heart attack, which then induced a coma. Law enforcement has tried to allege that Amini had preexisting medical conditions that led to her sudden death, which her family says is untrue.

Amini’s death follows a number of similar arrests by the morality police, who have reportedly thrown women into vans despite family members’ protests, and whose actions the Washington Post describes as being “increasingly assertive [as] of late.”

Wearing a hijab has been mandatory for women in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but many have strived to defy this law. This year, on July 12, Iran’s “National Day of Hijab and Chastity,” activists urged women to unveil in protest of the law. Throughout the summer, women also protested the hijab law on social media, using the hashtags #No2Hijab and #ImAgainstMandatoryHijab, while posting pictures of their bare heads. While empowering, the online movement led to arrests and what some believe to be “forced confessions” on state television, according to ABC News.

President Ebrahim Raisi has reportedly ordered the interior minister to open an inquiry into the events leading up to Amini’s death.

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