By Elham Abdel Jalil
Most of us are probably somewhat aware of what’s been happening in Iran, but regardless if you are or not, this article will cover the basics of the events of the past weeks and months.
Unlike many countries across the globe, Iran has its own national “Morality Police,” also known as the Gasht-e-Ershad (guidance patrol). The organization’s main role is to enforce rules regarding Islamic dress and to punish those who disobey the laws. The Islamic dress includes the wearing of the hijab, but also an emphasis on loose clothing, not showing much (if any) skin/parts of your body, sleeves down, jeans without rips, etc. While these regulations are what the Morality Police focus on the most, it also punishes people for drinking alcohol, going to gatherings with both males and females (who aren’t related to each other), and many other things. They take many rules that are present in the religion of Islam to an extreme, interfering and disrupting Iranians’ lives in almost every aspect possible. According to The New York Times, the Morality Police’s main motto is “upholding right and forbidding wrong,” but the definitions of right and wrong look different for everyone.
Head coverings (hijabs/niqabs) for women have been obligatory in Iran since 1979, even though the Morality Police didn’t become an official separate force until after the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). The New York Times says that “Iran’s efforts to enforce these rules became even more organized in the mid-2000s after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president.” The severity of the Morality Police’s enforcement changes based on how strict the ruling administration is, as well as the political climate at the time.
All in all, the Iranian Morality Police has always been a hot topic when talking about life in Iran, especially since they enforce a very religious rule as opposed to the secular authority many other countries have.
Although women have been fighting for their rights in Iran for years, the death of Mahsa Amini sparked the mass protests that have been going on in the country for the past two months.
Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old Iranian woman who lived in a small town called Saqez. She was a shy and reserved person who “minded her own business and steered clear of politics,” according to the Jerusalem Post. On September 13th of this year, Mahsa was visiting her uncle in Tehran, along with the rest of her family. Although she did wear the hijab, part of her hair and neck was showing and she was wearing tight trousers, which was against the rules of Iran’s conservative dress code. As soon as she stepped out of a train station that evening, Mahsa was arrested and confronted by the Morality Police. Both Mahsa and her brother begged the police not to take her, as they were not familiar with the rules in Tehran. However, the Morality Police didn’t listen and they arrested Mahsa and took her into custody. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but the next time Mahsa’s family saw her, she was in the hospital, deceased. Several women who were arrested with Mahsa told her father that she was beaten to death inside the van that was transporting them to the detention center. However, both the police and authorities insisted that Mahsa died due to sudden heart failure, even though the Amini family denied that their daughter had any preexisting conditions or health issues.
As sad as Mahsa’s story is, it paved the way for not just women, but people all over the world to start protesting for their rights. Mahsa Amini will never be forgotten; her story and the injustice done to her will always be remembered.
As a result of Mahsa Amini’s death, people all over the world began protesting for the rights of women in Iran. The BBC Post says that these demonstrations are seen as “the most serious challenge to the Iranian authorities in decades.” There are many different ways in which people are protesting Iran’s morality police and their strict rules.
Many women have taken to burning their headscarves and cutting their hair in public or on video to chants of “Women, life, freedom” (the motto of many human rights movements). It’s important to note that these actions are not meant to protest against the religion of Islam or the idea of the hijab, but rather for the right and choice for women to wear what they want without fear of being arrested, injured, or killed. Although many Iranian women have publicly protested against the Morality Police and hijab oppression, it has never reached such a large scale. Even across the world, women are setting hijabs on fire to symbolize support for Iranian women. Schoolgirls have been protesting and demonstrating in playgrounds and on the streets. Large numbers of men and even teenage boys have participated in protests that support the fight for women’s rights in Iran.
Although the protests have gained a lot of attention from across the globe, authorities have “played down the protests and tried to suppress them with force,” according to BBC News. Authorities have also disrupted the internet as well as phone services in Iran in an attempt to prevent the citizens of the country from getting information out to the rest of the world. Many independent media outlets have been stopped from reporting from inside Iran, which is why it’s so hard to verify what’s truly happening. Despite all of this, social media, activists, and human rights groups have been consistently trying to provide a clearer picture of the events in Iran.
Unlike many protests around the world, those in Iran have been disastrous, causing numerous injuries and deaths. According to Iran Human Rights (a Norway-based human rights group), “at least 234 people, including 29 children, have been killed by security forces.” The Iranian government and security forces have denied killing protestors, but have been filmed firing live ammunition into the streets and beating demonstrators.
The events and protests in Iran have been monumental and caused thousands of people around the world to join in the fight against the Iran Morality Police. Although this sort of strict ruling has been going on for years, the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini drastically sparked people’s anger from across the globe.