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Protests, arrests and unrest: A 10-point explainer on what’s happening in Iran

The last few days in Iran have been witness to a wave of protests that erupted after the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody.

September 27, 2022 / 12:46 PM IST
People participate in a protest against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi outside of the United Nations on September 21, 2022 in New York City.

People participate in a protest against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi outside of the United Nations on September 21, 2022 in New York City.

The last few days in Iran have been witness to a wave of protests that erupted after the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody. Iranian authorities have cracked down on protestors - arresting more than 1,200 people, blocking access to social media and firing tear gas at demonstrators even as thousands of people took to the streets in anger and defiance of the ‘oppressive’ regime.

Here is your 10-point explainer on the situation in Iran:

The uprisings in Iran were sparked by public anger over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, on September 16. Amini was arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police on September 13 for wearing her hijab (headscarf) in an “improper” way. Reports suggest she was beaten in police custody and slipped into a coma. She died three days later. According to BBC, police have said that Amini was not mistreated in custody and instead died of sudden heart failure.

The hijab has been compulsory in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has been trying to tighten the nation’s hijab and chastity laws, but Amini’s death sparked a wave of unrest in which women are taking their headscarves off to protest the strict laws.

Women in Iran are sharing videos which show them cutting their hair and burning hijabs to protest the country’s strict dress code. Footage that has emerged online shows people on the streets of Tehran shouting “death to the dictator” – only one among the hundreds of protests that have erupted in the country.

Iranian authorities have reportedly used water cannons, tear gas and fired live rounds at people in a brutal crackdown on the protests. The authorities' crackdown has left at least 76 people dead, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO said on Monday. Iran’s official toll puts the number of deaths at 41.

Several activists and journalists have been arrested and imprisoned as protests continued to rage for the 10th consecutive night in Iran. Prominent freedom of speech campaigner Hossein Ronaghi was arrested over the weekend, as were acclaimed filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. It is estimated that more than 1,200 people have been arrested so far.

Meanwhile, the nation has been hit with widespread internet outages. Access to sites like Instagram and WhatsApp has been restricted in what activists say is an attempt to prevent news of protests from reaching the world outside.

Heartbreaking visuals have nevertheless emerged from the protest-hit nation. In one video, a grieving woman was seen chopping her hair on the grave of her brother, Javad Heydari, who died during anti-hijab protests.

In another tragic instance, a 20-year-old woman was killed when security forces opened fire at protestors. According to The Mirror, Hadis Najafi died after being hit six times by bullets in Karaji.

The crackdown on protestors has drawn international condemnation, with Canada announcing sanctions against Iran. “We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran's so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference on Monday. Germany has also called on Iran to stop using violence to quell protests.

The United States has also imposed sanctions on Iran. "The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
first published: Sep 27, 2022 12:44 pm