A growing protest movement is taking place in the authoritarian nation of Iran. Videos circulating on social media show crowds of mostly young men and women marching in the streets and chanting anti-government slogans.
The protests erupted following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurdish woman from a rural area of Iran, which occurred after an altercation with the country's "morality police" — who enforce the Middle Eastern state's laws regarding modesty, according to CNN.
Death of Mahsa Amini
On Sep. 17, the BBC reported that Amini was visiting the capital city of Tehran when she was apprehended by a morality police squad for violating a law related to the veil.
Under Iranian law, women in public must cover up their arms and legs and veil their hair, including foreigners.
Eyewitnesses claimed that Amini was beaten in the back of a police van. The BBC added that the police supposedly beat her head with a baton, and banged her head against a vehicle.
Her family was informed by the police that she was taken to a hospital a few hours after the arrest, where she supposedly suffered a "heart problem" and died.
However, her family told an Iranian news outlet that she had no history of heart problems, the Washington Post reported. She also was in a coma before she died.
They were also at a loss to explain why Amini was singled out, as other women were supposedly less covered up than her.
Protests erupted after Amini's death
Amini's death under suspicious circumstances sparked a wave of protests.
The Washington Post reported that alongside Amini's death, protestors were also aggrieved by the priorities of Iran's government which has strictly enforced dress codes and empowered morality police while the country is going through an economic downturn.
They were concentrated in the rural, western area of the country where many Iranians of Kurdish ethnicity like Amini live.
However, more protests quickly spread to the capital and other cities, according to The Washington Post:
"'Dishonourable, dishonourable,' people yell, as they are sprayed with water cannons mounted on an armored police vehicle.
Another video from central Tehran shows students at the Amirkabir University of Technology chanting, 'Death to the dictator' — a reference to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."
Nine people have reportedly been killed as a result of clashes between the security forces and the protesters.
Golnaz Esfandiari, a reporter with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, shared a video of an unveiled Iranian woman cutting off her hair, while protesters applaud.
Unprecedented scenes in Iran: woman sits on top of utility box and cuts her hair in main square in Kerman to protest death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police. People clap their hands and chant “Death to the dictator.” #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/2oyuKV80Ac— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) September 20, 2022
Another reporter, Frida Ghitis of CNN, shared a video of Iranian women tossing their veils into a fire to be burned.
The scenes in Iran are astonishing. How far will these protests go?— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) September 20, 2022
The BBC reported that Amini's death comes after numerous incidents of the morality police cracking down on women, with videos circulating of women being detained, dragged along the ground, and taken away.
Women deemed insufficiently covered up have reportedly been denied access to government buildings and banks.
According to Reuters, the Iranian officials have denied that any protesters were killed by security forces, suggesting they were shot by armed dissidents instead.
Police also said there was no violence or physical contact between Amini and officers while she was in custody. They also released closed-circuit footage of who they claimed to be Amini inside the station, according to Bloomberg:
"At one point she stands up from a chair, goes to speak to another woman, then holds her head with both hands, stumbles against a chair and collapses. In the next segment of the footage she is being carried away on a stretcher."
The authorities have also moved to restrict internet access, including the use of Instagram, and shutting down some mobile networks.
Iran's hard-line president Ebrahim Raisi has ordered an investigation into Amini's death, according to the state-run IRNA news agency, cited by Bloomberg.
Top image from Twitter.