Iranian religious police beat a young woman to death, sparking protests

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Iran

The Iranian religious police beat a young woman to death – the regime is losing youth

From the point of view of the moral guardians, the 22-year-old was not wearing her headscarf properly. She died in police custody. The young Iranian population meanwhile sees hardly any prospects for themselves in the country – and shows their displeasure on the street.

Iranian women walk past a cleric in the capital, Tehran. After the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, protests against the moral guardians erupt in the country.

Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by the moral guards in Tehran, who accused her of violating the headscarf requirement for women in the Islamic Republic. The leadership is trying to downplay Amini’s death as a result of heart failure, but President Ebrahim Raisi is apparently concerned: he ordered an investigation while on a trip abroad.

Following the incident, protesters took to the streets in several cities over the weekend against the theocratic regime. The case shows the extent of the alienation between the regime and the country’s young population, who feel bullied and see no prospects for their future.

Aggressive Enforcement

Islamic hardliners have been trying for years to make headscarves compulsory, but have encountered resistance. Iranian women have been required to cover their hair with a scarf in public since the 1979 revolution. Many only put on a loose cloth that leaves most of their hair free.

Since protests against the headscarf five years ago, and especially since hardliner Ebrahim Raisi took office last year, the religious police have been aggressively enforcing the headscarf requirement more frequently. In recent months, opponents of the regime have called on women to take off their headscarves in public.

Since President Ebrahim Raisi took office, the religious police have often used aggressive means to make women wear headscarves.

Since President Ebrahim Raisi took office, the religious police have often used aggressive means to make women wear headscarves.

Vahid Salemi/UKTN

Mahsa Amini also only wore a loose headscarf, as photos of her on social media showed. It is not known whether she rejected the strict form of the headscarf for political reasons. The young woman lived in Saqez in western Iran’s Kurdish region and was visiting Tehran with her parents when she was arrested by the religious police last Tuesday. Amnesty International said the moral guardians wanted to force the 22-year-old to cover her hair completely in accordance with the rules of the Islamic Republic.

protests against the leadership

The religious police officers arrested Amini and beat her on a bus, as several media reported, citing eyewitnesses. The young woman fell into a coma and died in a hospital three days after her arrest.

Authorities explained the death as a heart attack, but her family said she had no heart disease. Iran International, an exile opposition medium, citing hospital sources, reported that Amini suffered severe head injuries from beatings. She was already brain dead when she was admitted to the hospital.

Protests in downtown Tehran after the 22-year-old's death.

Protests in downtown Tehran after the 22-year-old’s death.

UKTN

Hundreds of people attended Amini’s funeral in Saqez on Saturday and chanted anti-regime slogans. Women took off their headscarves as a sign of protest, the British UKTN reported. The police fired into the crowd. On Sunday evening, police officers fired tear gas at demonstrators in Sanandaj, the capital of the Iranian province of Kurdistan.

There were also protests against the leadership of the Islamic Republic in front of the hospital in Tehran where Amini died. On Sunday, students from Tehran University took to the streets, activists reported. Prominent Iranian artists and athletes condemned the actions of the religious police. Authorities throttled the internet to make it harder to distribute videos and calls for demonstrations.

No immediate threat to the regime

The protests pose no immediate threat to Raisi’s government: the leadership of the Islamic Republic has been able to quell much larger unrest in recent years; hundreds of demonstrators were killed.

The protests, here in Tehran, pose no major threat to the regime.

The protests, here in Tehran, pose no major threat to the regime.

UKTN

However, Raisi’s decision to order an immediate investigation into Amini’s death from a visit to Uzbekistan shows that the government is concerned. However, it is unclear whether Raisi wants an honest investigation or is pursuing the goal of reassuring the public without holding those responsible to account.

In Iran, more than every second citizen is younger than 30 years and has therefore not experienced any other system of government than the Islamic Republic. However, the Islamization of the country since the revolution more than 40 years ago has not turned most young Iranians into supporters of the regime. On the contrary: According to experts, many of them are disillusioned with corruption and the economic crisis and want to leave the country. There is a wide gulf between the regime and many young Iranians, says Lena Loch of the Friends of Europe think tank, which was co-founded by the EU.

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