Since 22-year-old Amini was detained last month, her death has become a call for greater political and social freedom in Iran.
Protests have raged in Iran—a nation that historically has not looked kindly upon political dissent—ever since the death of a young woman named Mahsa Amini in the capital city of Tehran on last month. Below, find all the details on who Amini was, why she was first detained by the Iranian morality police, and how her death has sparked a wave of resistance (particularly among young women) in Iran and elsewhere throughout the world.
Who was Mahsa Amini?
Mahsa Amini, who also went by the name Jina, was a 22-year-old woman from the western city of Saqqez in Iran’s Kurdistan province. Iranian morality police detained her outside a metro station in Tehran and took her into custody, with witnesses claiming that she was beaten while being transported to a detention center. Amini died in an Iranian hospital after spending three days in a coma.
Why was Amini detained by the morality police in Tehran?
Officials have claimed that Amini was detained for breaking the Iranian law requiring women to cover their hair with a headscarf and their limbs with loose clothing. Iran’s mandatory hijab law, which went into effect in 1981 after the country’s Islamic Revolution, is selectively and often arbitrarily enforced, and Amini’s mother has claimed that her daughter was wearing a long, loose robe as required.
How are Iranian officials explaining her death?
Iranian security forces issued a statement claiming that Amini died of a heart attack at the detention center, although her family has disputed this claim, maintaining that their daughter was in perfect health when she was detained.
How is the world—and Iran, in particular—reacting to Amini’s death?
Protests have erupted outside the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, as well as in Tehran and beyond. In the Iranian city of Kerman, where women are required to wear hijabs in public, many took to the streets last month to protest Amini’s death, and elsewhere women were seen burning their hijabs and chanting, “Women, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator.” (Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has held the position of the country’s top religious, political, and military authority since 1989.) U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” by the circumstances of Amini’s death.
We are deeply concerned by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was reportedly beaten in custody by Iran’s morality police. Her death is unforgivable. We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for such human right abuses. #MahsaAmini مهسا_امینی#— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) September 16, 2022
Who is leading the protests surrounding Amini’s death?
Young women in Iran—from schoolgirls to teenagers flooding the streets—have led the protests that were kicked off by Amini’s death, sending a particularly strong message in a country that has not traditionally encouraged female self-expression, let alone dissent. Videos taken across Iran show girls taking off their hijabs, flipping off photos of the country’s leader, and marching in large groups to make their voices heard.
How many people have been killed by the Iranian government since Amini’s death?
It’s been estimated that as many as 185 people have been killed in the Iranian protests surrounding Amini’s death and the country’s treatment of women; the recent death of Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old protestor whose mother alleges she was killed by Iranian security forces, has only added urgency to the movement.