For many years, women’s rights movements have fought tooth and nail to address the inequality women face on a quotidian basis. Yet, according to Pew Research, over 24% of countries have a mandatory dress code for women. Thus, even after centuries of struggling to obtain basic rights, women continue to contend with inequality in all aspects of life, all over the globe.
Once again, riots and protests are ablaze, this time in Iran. Unrest has spread across Iran as women, who are at the forefront, are protesting the compulsory hijab law and the established principles concerning their behavior in public. This all began in the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s death in Tehran.
Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old female who was in the car with her brother when she was arrested by the morality police in Tehran, Iran. She was indicted for violating the state’s mandatory hijab law as she was not properly wearing the headscarf. The hijab law requires women to completely cover their hair with a head scarf and the remaining portion of their body, including hands and legs, with loose clothes.
Subsequently, Mahsa was arrested and held in custody on September 13, 2022. She was subjected to police brutality as the law enforcement members assaulted her during her transfer to Vozara Detention Centre. Mahsa collapsed after reaching the detention center and was comatose for three days before her death on September 16, 2022.
There is a plethora of evidence indicating that Mahsa was murdered rather than her death being due to a natural cause. First, the clinic where she was treated posted a report on Instagram stating that she was brain dead when she was admitted. Second, her brother contends that he witnessed bruises on her legs and arms. Third, by September 21, the clinic had released preliminary CT scans of her brain which critics stated showed physical beating and trauma.
Despite the blatant evidence substantiating the claim that she was murdered, the Iranian morality police deny the allegations and impute the incident to an ostensible heart attack. Iran International states that the Iranian authorities are forging reports indicating that Mahsa Amini had been suffering from heart problems for years now.
Furthermore, Tehran’s governor, Mohsen Mansouri, tweeted on September 20, 2022, that Mahsa Amini’s death was being used as a pretext by Kurds and separatists to defame the nation.
The hijab laws were enacted after the 1979 Islamic revolution. The law requires women to wear a headscarf and loose clothes that conceal their figure when out in public. In order to mandate this law, a police force known as “Gasht-e Ershad” has been established.
This police force is responsible for assessing whether or not a woman is fully covered, showing too much skin, improperly wearing a hijab, or wearing clothes that are too tight. If a woman is found to be violating the standard dress code, she can be fined, imprisoned, and even flogged.
The incident has received global attention as individuals took to social media platforms to voice their support for the women in Iran and justice for Mahsa Amini. The trending hashtag “#MahsaAmini” was utilized all across Twitter with over 80 million tweets. Additionally, people convened in Toronto, London, Istanbul, and other western countries to condemn the crimes against women that are currently occurring in Iran.
Consequently, the United Nations has strongly condemned the hijab crackdown in Iran and demands a thorough investigation of the incident and impartial accountability of those involved. Moreover, they call for an end to the violence that women are systematically enduring in Iran.
In addition, the United Nations contends that the imposition of discriminatory dress codes deprives women of their bodily autonomy and directly circumscribes freedom of speech, religion, and expression.
Chaos Within Iran
In the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s death, a series of demonstrations and civil unrest has ensued within Iran with regard to the mandatory hijab laws and limited freedom given to women. The 2022 hijab protest movement has erupted in all parts of Iran as women cut their hair, dance, and burn hijabs to express their resentment and displeasure with the hijab laws.
Men in Iran have also joined in to protest and showcase their support for the women of Iran and their demand to exercise basic rights. The slogans being shouted are “death to the dictator” and “woman, life, freedom”. By September 18, people were marching in Tehran, Sari, Tabriz, Hamedan, and Kish.
Consequently, all roads in those cities on Sunday were closed due to the 2022 protest against the mandatory hijab law and principle of the Islamic government in Iran. The peaceful protests have been met with violence and excessive force to disperse the crowds that have convened on the streets of Iran.
The Iranian security forces have utilized tear gas and metal pellets to break up crowds. According to a press release by the United Nations, a total of 7 individuals have died with hundreds more injured and arrested. Resultantly, as the police force turned violent, the rage of the people increased and police departments along with police cars were torched to meet the level of aggression exhibited by the Iranian security forces.
Moreover, internet accessibility in Iran has been disrupted to stifle the free expression and association of the citizens and to curtail the ongoing 2022 hijab protest movement. Despite these measures to suppress women and their demands for fundamental human rights, the citizens of Iran continue to protest against the mandatory hijab laws.
Immediate measures must be taken to address the concerns of the citizens. The hijab law ought to be repealed to placate the thousands of individuals who are averse to the enactment.
Although it is evident that Iranian authorities themselves will not take the necessary action to rescind the law, international organizations such as the European Union and United Nations must intervene and urge the country to provide its female constituents with their basic liberties. Otherwise, such incidents will continue to occur, and frequent widespread chaos within the country will only debilitate the law and order situation.
In conclusion, the Mahsa Amini incident is perhaps only one of many cases that occur daily in Iran. Not all tragic incidents receive the level of attention as this case did. Thus, as the atrocities faced by women have been brought to public attention, immediate measures with respect to the mandatory hijab law and other principles hindering women’s freedom must to taken to prevent any further incidents and to appease the 49.53% of the women population in Iran.
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