‘Death to the dictator’: Protests in Iran continue

Protests have erupted across Iran in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in police custody after being apprehended for not wearing her hijab correctly. 

Amini died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules for women regarding modest clothing and women’s expectations in society because she was wearing ripped jeans and bright colored clothing, according to CBC news.  

Iranian authorities have denied any wrongdoing and claim Amini died of a heart attack; however, her family and a substantial majority of Iranians accuse the government of a cover-up. According to eyewitnesses, Amini was beaten by Iran’s feared morality police.

Following the protests, social media videos showed burned-out fire engines, bus stations and banks. The government claimed that the riots, which included shots fired from the crowd, were orchestrated by terrorist groups, but protesters claimed that police were firing into crowds while they were praying. 

“Honestly it’s devastating and heartbreaking, this has been going on for so long and I’m glad people are starting to recognize and realize that it needs to be stopped,” said an anonymous Iranian member of Suffolk’s Middle Eastern and North African Student Association. “And it’s hard to be away from family, let alone, with the crisis happening because it’s hard not to worry about them and their safety.”

According to the New York Times, the Islamic Republic has responded by severely restricting Internet access, arresting hundreds of students and political activists and killing more than 70 people. 

Rallies have also become more violent in recent weeks. Women are seen tearing off their veils, cutting off their hair and screaming at advancing lines of riot police using phrases like “women, life, freedom” and “death to the dictator” in regards to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamemi, as reported by the Washington Post. 

Many Iranian citizens have called for the religious restrictions that govern how people dress, socialize in their homes and what they drink and eat to be lifted. Some conservatives have joined the chorus, claiming that criminalizing rule violations and imposing them by force has backfired and fueled anti-religious sentiment.

Protests have been held all over the world to advocate for the human rights movement, from three major cities in Australia to multiple countries in Europe such as England and Sweden. The protests have also reached the U.S. and Canada.

Although Amini’s death sparked the protests, this uprising stems from a broader well of rage among a younger generation of Iranians. Unlike previous protests, the current demonstrations appear to be much more widespread, with protests taking place in all 31 provinces, including Shia clergy strongholds Mashhad and Qom. 

The anger also stems from years of police abuse, economic deprivation, political repression and corruption that have been keeping the protests going for weeks on end.