Uprisings in Iran: the Fight for Women, Life, and Freedom

On September 16th, 22-year-old Masha Amini died after being arrested by the Iranian “morality police” in Tehran. The “morality police” are a law enforcement group focused on enforcing the Islamic ideals of female modesty, such as the hijab. In response to the country-wide protests, police have taken a violent, brutal approach to quell the crowds. But how did these protests get to this point?

Protesters holding up a picture on Mahsa Amini in Istanbul, Turkey. Credit: Ozan Kose/Getty Images

To better understand this issue, it’s important to know the history behind the hijab. In the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the overthrow of Shah Reza led to a man named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini taking charge. His aim was to create an Islamic state and revert back to the ideas and morals found in the Quran; this meant purging the modern and western ideas that the previous Shah had tried to implement. The veil and female modesty became integral in Iranian society, restricting a woman’s choice about whether or not to wear one. 

On September 13th, 2022, Masha Amini was arrested and then died in custody on the 16th. After being arrested in Tehran for not wearing her hijab properly, her family was told she was sent to a detention center to be “educated” on the mandatory hijab laws. 

She was found severely beaten and hospitalized. Photos of her condition have sparked public outrage against the religious dictatorship and modesty laws. These protests have been spearheaded by the women and girls of Iran, many of them cutting their hair, taking off their hijabs, and burning images of the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  These brave acts of rebellion have been met with extreme violence such as sexual assault, gunfire, and even death. BBC has identified 44 people who have been killed because of the violence, but the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency estimates around 224 civilians have died.  

If there is one thing we can take away from the Mahsa Amini Protests it’s that freedom, liberty, and life are worth fighting for. The women in Iran deserve our solidarity, because threats against the rights and safety of women aren’t something to take lightly. Donations to organizations like the Iranian American Women Foundation, United for Iran, and the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran are all raising money to empower Iranian women and work towards eliminating gender-based inequalities. This is a larger fight towards democracy and equality in a theological country.