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Women in Iran Burn Headscarves in Anti-hijab Protests

Women in Iran burn headscarves
Women in Iran Burn Headscarves in Anti-hijab Protests Credit: World Opinions / Twitter

The escalating anti-hijab protests in Iran emanating from the death of a young woman upon detention by morality police have witnessed women in the lead as they resort to burning headscarves.

Since the death of Mahsa Amini in hospital on Friday after spending three days in a coma, demonstrations have raged on for five successive nights in several towns and cities.

Large crowds were seen cheering as women set their hijabs alight in defiant acts of protest North of Tehran in Sari.

Iran Morality Police Held Responsible for Death of Young Woman

The 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested in the capital last week on Friday by Iran’s morality police. She was accused of breaking hijab laws requiring women to cover their hair, arms, and legs with loose clothing.

Ms. Amini apparently fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention center. According to reports, police beat her on the head with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles upon arrest.

However, police have denied she was mistreated and said she suffered “sudden heart failure.” The family of Ms. Amini insists she was fit and in good health.

In the Kurdistan Province in Western Iran, which is where Ms. Amini is from, three people were killed on Monday as security forces opened fire on protesters.

State media reported that an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei paid a visit to Ms. Amini’s family on Monday and told them that “all institutions will take action to defend the rights that were violated.”

Jalal Rashidi Koochi, a senior Member of Parliament in Iran, publicly criticized morality police, saying the force was a “mistake” as it had only produced “loss and damage” for Iran.

Iran laws triggering anti-hijab protests

Formally known as “Gasht-e Ershad” (Guidance Patrols), Iran’s morality police, among other things, are tasked with ensuring women conform to authorities’ interpretation of “proper” clothing.

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, authorities in Iran imposed a mandatory dress code requiring all women to wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothing to disguise their figures in public.

Police officers have the power to stop women and assess whether too much hair is visible, trousers and overcoats are too short or tight, or too much make-up has been applied.

Consequences for violating such rules include a fine, a prison sentence, or flogging. In 2014, Iranian women began sharing photos and videos of themselves publicly flouting the hijab laws as part of an online protest campaign called “My Stealthy Freedom.”

The campaign has since inspired other movements, including “White Wednesdays” and “Girls of Revolution Street.”

Reports of police brutality in protests

A spokesperson of a Norway-based organization, Hengaw, which monitors human rights in predominantly Kurdish areas, said thirty-eight people were injured on Saturday and Sunday when riot police fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas at protesters in Saqez and Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province.

It was further reported that three male protesters were shot and killed in clashes with security forces on Monday—one in Saqez and two others in the towns of Divandarreh and Dehgolan—as the unrest escalated.

Videos posted online showed women removing their headscarves in Tehran and shouting “death to the dictator,” referring to the Supreme Leader with others shouting “justice, liberty, no to mandatory hijab.”

Protesters in the northern province of Gilan were also involved in clashes with police.

A woman who took part in a protest on Monday night in the northern city of Rasht shared photographs and pointed to bruises she suffered from beatings by riot police with batons and hoses.

She said, “[The police] kept firing tear gas. Our eyes were burning, we were running away, [but] they cornered me and beat me. They were calling me a prostitute and saying I was out [on] the street to sell myself.”

Another protester in the central city of Isfahan said, “While we were waving our headscarves in the sky, I felt so emotional to be surrounded and protected by other men. It feels great to see this unity. I hope the world supports us.”

However, Tehran Governor Mohsen Mansouri tweeted on Tuesday that the protests were “fully organized with the agenda of creating unrest.”

Iran state TV alleged that Ms. Amini’s death was being used as an “excuse” by Kurdish separatists and critics of the establishment.

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