The death of a young Kurdish-Iranian woman last year, kidnapped by the so-called guidance (or morality) police sparked rage across the region. She died during her detention.
Jina Mahsa Amini was detained for violating a 4-decade-law that imposes a unified attire for the women of the Islamic republic.
The Iranian authorities use the term “bad or improper hijab” to detain any woman who doesn’t comply with the definition of womanhood that the regime has set. This means that the law also targets hijab-wearing women who don’t wear the hijab in the way that authorities dictate.
Mahsa Amini was born in the city of Saqqez in North-West Iran. There are some sources that suggest she had been accepted to Urmia University and was set to begin her studies.
On Tuesday, the 15th of September, at around 6:00 PM, police officers arrested Mahsa near the Shahid Haghani metro station in Tehran. She was accompanied by her brother when she was accused of not complying with women’s dress code. Eyewitness testimony states that police forces beat Amini inside the police car.
According to Tehran police, she was later transferred from the Morality Police detention center to the Kasra Hospital in Tehran, where it was announced she had fell into a coma. The president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, ordered the Minister of Interior to follow up with an investigation of the incident. The Iranian judiciary announced the formation of a special task force to conduct the investigation.
On Friday, the 16th of September, Mahsa Amini was pronounced dead.
Official Iranian sources confirmed her death during her detention, but Amini’s family tells a story far different from the regime’s.
The police forces claim that Amini suffered “sudden heart failure” while she and other women awaited punishment for their hijab disobedience in the detention centre. The police forces denied beating or abusing Amini. Surveillance camera footage was shared showing Mahsa Amini speaking with a policewoman and walking a little before collapsing.
The Minister of Interior stated on Saturday the 17th of September: “It seems, she had prior health issues.”
Mahsa was buried in her hometown under the watchful eye of security forces, as well as thousands of supporters who had gathered for her funeral.
The announcement of her death sparked so much anger on social media and even pushed citizens to protest in front of Kasra Hospital. This led security forces to crack down on protestors and gatherings.
With the rising tension, Iranian police forces broadcasted on TV the images from surveillance cameras, showing her outside the detention or “discipline” centre, as well as inside the centre. It was noted by viewers that timestamps and dates were removed from the footage.
Amini’s dad struck back at regime media channels the following Sunday. He said that she was in great physical health and had no prior health issues. He also stated that Amini had bruises on her legs, and that the surveillance images broadcasted by the Iranian regime were edited.
Student protests emerged from University of Tehran, University of Isfahan, as well as other universities in the capital.
Kurdish human rights group ‘Hengaw’ said that at least 38 people were injured after security forces opened fire on protestors in Kurdish areas.
The police chief of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), Hossein Rahimi, expressed his sympathy with the Amini family on the 19th of September, but insisted that Amini was not physically abused. He said: “the evidence shows that there was no negligence nor any inappropriate behaviour from the police officers.”
Mahsa Amini’s uncle also challenged the police’s narrative when he spoke with the Tehraani newspaper Etemaad, saying that his niece was in perfect health and that the police’s claims were “pure lies”. He added, “Mahsa was with her brother and when she resisted arrest, tear gas was used.”
Amini’s mother told the BBC: “They killed my angel.”
Family members of those who die in detention centres face “grave danger” if they speak to media outlets, so much so that some family members get harassed by security forces. That is why some families stay silent. Other families speak out because they feel safer if they receive international support.
Iranian media sources shared an image of a letter written by Dr. Hossein Karampour, head of Bandar Abbas’ Medical Council branch, where he states that “bleeding from the ear and bruising under the eyes are not consistent with (the symptoms of) heart failure.” Other videos were shared of women shaving their heads and throwing their hijabs.
Hossein Rahimi, Tehran’s Police Commander, stated in a press conference that “there was no wrongdoing from the police’s side and all the claims about her death are lies.”
Protests began at Mahsa Amini’s funeral in her birthplace, the city of Saqqez, and spread throughout the country. Protestors, the majority of whom were young women, took off their hijabs. Their slogan was “women, life, freedom.”
Protests spread throughout the Islamic Republic and became the largest since its founding. The regime responded to the demonstrations with extensive violence and repression; security forces shot live ammunition at protestors, as well as sentencing protestors and activists to death.
Hundreds of men, women, and children were killed in addition to thousands wounded. Thousands more were also arbitrarily detained and unjustly prosecuted for nothing but peaceful protests demanding their human rights. Women suffered greatly; other minorities–the LGBT community and other ethnic or religious minorities – also experienced unfair discrimination and violence. Many unjust practices became systematic and widespread such as arbitrary disappearances and torture. These practices included denying people of medical care, whipping, cutting off digits, and blinding.
Executions also became more common and public executions were brought back.
There was systematic impunity for crimes against humanity, past and present, related to the 1988 prison massacres and other crimes punishable under international law. Accurate numbers are difficult to obtain, but according to independent human rights organizations, security forces in Iran killed at least 527 demonstrators, including 17 minors, during protests between September 16, 2022 and the end of January 2023. These protests have permanently changed political and social relations in Iranian society. One of the most important changes concerns the new appearance of women in public places. Despite stricter punitive measures such as fines, many women refuse to wear the mandatory hijab. They view the hijab as a symbol of systematic oppression and humiliation and did not want to follow the rules associated with it.
Since the Islamic Revolution, the image of women has played an important role in state ideology. Women without the hijab are seen as a symbol of the liberal Western lifestyle, and conservative forces see them as a cultural attack on Islamic culture. The image of a woman promoted by the political system is not just a woman wearing the hijab, but also a woman who is obedient and submissive. At that time, as part of the Islamic Revolution, those in power Islamized the education system, forced women to wear the hijab in public, and sent cultural workers and independent scholars into exile or arrested them. At the end of the 1980s, political prisoners were executed en masse.
Iranian women have been discriminated against for decades. This is also confirmed by the World Economic Forum report. In the “Global Gender Gap Report 2022”, the country ranked 143 out of 146 countries internationally. The World Economic Forum examines gender equality in business, education, health and politics. Women's political participation in particular plays a crucial role in these rankings.
During the protests, the political regime in Iran wanted to intimidate society the same way it did during the 1980s, using methods such as mass arrests of demonstrators, death sentences for political prisoners, and the expulsion of critical scholars from educational institutions.
On August 22, 2023 Iran's parliament approved a controversial law that would impose tougher penalties for violating Islamic dress codes. These sentences include up to 15 years in prison for multiple violations. It is also a criminal offence to publish pictures of women without a hijab on the Internet. In addition, a travel ban could be imposed on the accused. The judiciary threatens to close supermarkets, restaurants and museums that allow women without hijabs to enter.
The new law wants to better protect religious women. According to the law, if veiled women are insulted, the perpetrator remains behind bars for six months and receives 74 lashes. In this way, those in power are trying to drive a wedge between people.
Now the old doctrines are being challenged by this movement that emerged a year ago, which also relates to the feminist movement. The death of Jina Mahsa Amini also led Iranians abroad to organize themselves and mobilize. In October 2022, for example, Iranian exiles in Germany organized a solidarity march in Berlin. According to police estimates, about 80,000 people participated in the protest. As a token of their validation, the Munich Security Conference in February 2023 allowed Iranian opposition activists to represent Iran for the first time instead of government representatives.
While forming an opposition inside Iran is very difficult due to the repression carried out by the security forces, many expected or hoped that big names and figures would build opposition among Iranian exiles. However, there was great disappointment when some Iranians abroad, after briefly joining forces, turned to other paths. It seems that reaching a consensus among the Iranian exiles is very difficult. The decisive force for change in Iran remains the many brave people who stand up to the oppression of the Iranian regime. They are the only ones who can bring change to life.
At the same time, women in Iran, especially Tehran, are increasingly lax in wearing the mandatory hijab, despite the government’s attempts to tighten control over dress. However, many throughout the country believe that the priority is the economy, as the inflation rate is now at about 50 per cent while the prices of basic goods are rising dramatically.
Analysts point out that economic difficulties have fueled feelings of dissatisfaction among the public since last year's protests, which continued for months. Last year's demonstrations, in which hundreds were killed, including security personnel, while thousands were arrested, represented a major challenge to the government of President Ibrahim Raisi, who pledged since taking power in August 2021 to transform the country's economy and "empower the poor." He stressed his pledges this year to “control inflation” and “improve the standard of living,” holding the “enemy” responsible for the economic difficulties the country is witnessing.
In the crowded Tehran Grand Bazaar, stores are full of shoppers, including women who wear the hijab and others who do not, but most of them leave without buying anything, and store owners complained about the decline in the number of shoppers in light of the weak purchasing power.
The Iranian regime increased its criminal record against the Iranian people during the past year. In addition to the persecution against ethnic and religious minorities, women, and the LGBT community, executions increased compared to the previous year, and public executions resumed after a two-year hiatus. The number of members of the oppressed Baloch minority among those executed was disproportionate. The death penalty was imposed after grossly unfair trials, including for crimes that did not meet the “most serious crimes” standard, such as drug trafficking, financial corruption, and sabotage, and for acts protected by international human rights law, such as the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Several people were executed for crimes committed when they were children. Dozens of others who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime remained on death row.
Speaking about the situation of minorities in Iran, members of ethnic minorities such as Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds, and Turkmen have faced discrimination, which has limited their access to education, employment, adequate housing, and holding political positions. The continued low investment in minority areas has exacerbated poverty and marginalization. Persian remained the only language of instruction at the primary and secondary levels, despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity. Security forces unlawfully killed dozens of unarmed Kurds transporting goods across the border between Kurdish minority areas in Iran and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (men called “Kolber”) and Baluchi fuel transporters (men called “Soukhtbar”) in Sistan and Baluchestan Province. The authorities did not investigate the killings, nor did they hold those responsible accountable.
Religious minorities such as Baha'is, Christians, Gonabadi Dervishes, Jews, Yarsans, and Sunni Muslims also suffered unfair discrimination in law and practice. The discrimination affected various areas, including education, employment, adoption of children, holding political office, and places of worship. Hundreds were arbitrarily detained, unfairly prosecuted, tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and/or subjected to other forms of harassment for professing or practicing their faith. People born to parents classified as Muslim by the authorities risk arbitrary detention, torture, or the death penalty for “apostasy” if they embrace another religion or atheistic beliefs.
Members of the Baha'i minority were subjected to widespread and systematic violations in connection with the practice of their faith, including arbitrary detention, interrogation, torture, other ill-treatment, and forced disappearance. The authorities forcibly closed Baha'i businesses and shops, confiscated dozens of their properties, demolished their homes and cemeteries, and deprived Baha'is of higher education.
The authorities raided churches inside homes, and subjected Christians to arbitrary arrest, confiscation of personal property, prosecution on national security charges, and punishments such as imprisonment, fines, and “exile” to other areas within the country. Several prisoners from the Gonabadi Dervish community remained unjustly imprisoned.
LGBT people suffer systematic discrimination and violence. Consensual same-sex relations continued to be criminalized, with penalties ranging from flogging to death. State-sanctioned “conversion therapy” amounting to torture or other ill-treatment remains prevalent, including for children. Hormone treatment and surgical procedures, including sterilization, are also mandatory procedures for legal gender reassignment. Individuals who do not conform to customary gender classification were at risk of being criminalized and denied access to education and employment.
Authorities also continued to treat women as second-class citizens regarding various matters, including marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, inheritance, and political office. The legal age for marriage for girls remains 13, and parents can obtain judicial permission to marry their daughters at a younger age. Therefore, women and girls were at the forefront of the popular uprising, challenging decades of unfair discrimination and violence based on gender, rejecting the humiliating and discriminatory laws that require them to wear the hijab and lead to them being exposed daily to harassment and violence at the hands of official and unofficial bodies, in addition to being subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, other ill-treatment, denial of access to education, employment, and access to public places.
The Iranian regime is classified globally as the first sponsor of international terrorism by virtue of the crimes and terrorist operations it has committed against its citizens and against the peoples of its region and the world.
It has established many terrorist organizations at home and abroad, including Hezbollah militias in Lebanon, Hezbollah Hejaz in the Gulf states, Hezbollah W Asaib Ahl al-Haq and dozens of sectarian militias in Iraq, as well as the Houthis in Yemen. In addition, Tehran supports and conspires with other international terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, which has sheltered a number of its leaders and a number of whom are still in Iran.
The Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist) regime not only established terrorist militias and spy cells, but also carried out kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations against embassies, diplomats, civil centres, opponents, and its political opponents.
The Iranian regime also played a major role in deepening the wounds of the Syrians, as it provided extensive military and civilian support to achieve its goals in Syria, the most important of which was protecting the Assad regime there while achieving this goal at the expense of hundreds of thousands of dead, wounded, and displaced Syrian civilians.
Iranian-affiliated forces, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Fatemiyoun Brigade, and the Abu al-Fadl militia, just to name a few, also played a major role in deepening the wounds of the Syrians. They provided extensive military and civilian support to achieve its goals in Syria, the most important of which was protecting the Assad regime–achieving this goal at the expense of hundreds of thousands of dead, wounded, and displaced Syrian civilians.
Throughout the years of the war, international reports confirmed that Iranian militias in Syria participated directly in the war in defence of the regime there from the outset.
Finally, an official recognition of this fact came recently from the commander of the Quds Force artillery unit, which is the external intervention arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, where he said: “With the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Supreme Leader summoned the commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, and appointed him to protect the government of Bashar al-Assad.”
With his words, he confirms that Iran’s involvement in the Syrian crisis was long before the appearance of ISIS, which Tehran used as a pretext at the time.
Soleimani was the mastermind behind most of the Iranian violations in Syria, where he directed Hezbollah's interventions. Since the beginning of the conflict, Iran and Hezbollah have provided loans, oil, financial aid, weapons, battlefield training, and fighters to the Assad regime under the direction of Iran's Supreme Leader. Soleimani was seen in the streets and front lines of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, and Deir ez-Zor, where he was directly supervising countless battles and ensuring the continuation of Assad’s rule while carrying out a broad demographic change in many Sunni villages and cities across Syria to maintain Iranian control and influence.
Across nearly nine years, Soleimani was responsible for the killing of thousands of Syrians and the displacement of millions, as he helped Assad conduct thousands of bombing operations, destroy dozens of cities and towns, carry out chemical weapons attacks, starvation sieges, and mass murders of the Syrian population. These actions amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people.
Therefore, it is a revolution against the Iranian regime with its ageing religious institution, which is controlled by clerics, most of whom have become old religious sellouts and wealthy bourgeoisie. It was also a revolution against the security-military establishment that turned Iran into a kingdom of silence and made objection an occasion for the loss of lives. It was also a righteous cry against the Iranian criminality that is wreaking havoc in the Arab countries.