October 24, 2022
Standing by Mahsa Amini. Iran’s rise against oppression is yet another youth’s call for change
Protest for Iran, taken on September 25
Mahsa Amini, a 22 year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, died on September 16.
She was arrested by the Iranian Guidance Patrol, commonly known as the “morality police”, for not correctly following Iran’s mandatory hijab law.
Amini’s cause of death was pronounced by the authorities to be a heart attack. However, leaked medical records and family testimonies claim otherwise – it is widely believed that Amini died due to abuse committed by the members of the notorious “morality police”.
The consequences of her death are a turning point in the history of Iran, which has been ruled by a theocratic regime since 1979.
As noted by The Washington Institute, the protests that followed the death of Amini and continued for over a month now, are one of the largest insurgency movements against the regime since 2009.
Despite the regime’s attempts at curbing access to the internet, social media delivers numerous videos of people – predominantly young women – demonstrating and expressing their wish for a major political change.
Women in Iran and around the world have been cutting hair and burning hijabs, all as an act of solidarity to Mahsa and those who have suffered persecution from the “morality police”.
One of many who supported this movement is a Member of the European Parliament for Sweden, Abir Al-Sahlani, who cut her hair during a parliament meeting. It was a call for the EU to defend “Women, Life and Freedom”, a shout by Al-Sahlan which echoed the chants of protesters in early October.
The New York Times
How Two Teenagers Became the New Faces of Iran’s Protests
Written by: Farnaz Fassihi
Demonstrations were met with brutal repressions from the authorities. On October 12th, an Oslo-based advocacy group, the Iran Human Rights reported that at least 201 people have been killed by members of the security forces since the unrest began.
On October 13th, the following day, Amnesty International released figures that there were “at least 23 children killed with impunity during brutal crackdown on youthful protests.”
Arguably, the brutality of the regime is only strengthening the protests, as the deaths of Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh, most likely murdered by the security forces, have only added fuel to the anger caused over Amini’s death.
It is important to underline that the protests are not against religion. The goal is to topple a brutal political regime.
Notably, the main fighters against oppression are seen to be female students – the youth, who march in the streets and become the victims of the oppressors.
They are supported by a wide coalition of people from different political, economic, and social statuses, who for numerous reasons have either turned against the regime or are not willing to defend the Supreme Leader when protestors claim that “We are all Mahsa. We are all in this fight together” and call for “death to the dictator”.
The government of Iran, apart from the brutal crackdown – which included the use of drones and missiles against its very own Kurdish population, has recently been shutting down the internet within its territory. Officials have attempted to blame the protests on outsider forces. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, himself went on to blame the US and Israel for creating turmoil.
“Instead of blaming external actors for the unrest, they should take responsibility for their actions and listen to the concerns of their people” – The UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, responded. The US has also acted by imposing sanctions on several Iranian officials.
Despite their massive scale and brutal character, the events in Iran should not be detached from the other major protests of youth that have taken place around the world in recent years.
Those protesting in Iran, and those who support them in other parts of the world, were brought together by a fight against injustice, police brutality, and the persecution of women which are hardly phenomena limited to Iran.
In fact, the Iranian theocracy – a political regime in which religion is enforced upon the citizens of the country and the government is considered to be divinely guided – is only a particularly outrageous, outdated, and brutal example which stands against the background of many different governments facing increasing scrutiny from their young citizens.
All around the world young people and their allies are seen standing together and taking steps for change, be that in politics, law enforcement, or the environment. Iran is by far not the only place where the power-wielding older generations are not willing to listen to the initiatives and ideas voiced by the youth.
Mahsa Amini mural by artist Vanessa Moncayo Gonzalez
In that respect, the death of Masha Amini and the protests it sparked, could be perceived as being placed within the same global values of justice and freedom.
For example, it can be seen alongside the recent Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of George Floyd, or the protests following the death of Londoner Sarah Everard who was murdered by a Police officer.
When put together, all these protests highlight the pressing need for international change – including Iran, but where people fight against a particularly brutal regime.