Everything You Need to Know About the Hijab Protests in Iran
By Space Coast Daily // March 16, 2023
There have been several occasions when women took a stand against inequality despite the modernization era.
One prominent example is the ‘hijab protesters,’ who have taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with their country’s laws and social norms, especially those they feel restrict their freedom and perpetuate gender inequality.
Many have heard about these protesters, chanting and expressing their dissent like Send Iran Love: ‘Women, Life, Freedom.’ As these events unfold, there’s one thing that can cross one’s mind: Women’s rights still have a long way to go to achieve equality.
Iran’s Political Overview
Iran, previously known as Persia, is a southwest Asian country that has been governed as a theocratic republic since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Some may say Iran’s laws are based on the teachings of their official religion, Twelver Ja’afari Shia Islam.
The government enforces its policies strictly, and there are restrictions on freedom of speech. Penalties for breaking the law can range from imprisonment to execution, depending on the offense committed. One recent case that garnered attention is that of Mahsa Amini.
Who Is Mahsa Amini?
Mahsa Amini, also known as Zhina, was a 22-year-old Iranian woman from Saqqez, Iran. She was visiting her brother in Tehran with her family when she was arrested last September 13, 2022, at the Shahid Haghani Expressway by the Guidance Patrol. It’s for allegedly violating the country’s dress code.
In Iran, women are required to cover their heads with the hijab, Muslim women’s customary headscarf. According to eyewitnesses, Zhina was accused of violating this requirement by the morality police. Eyewitnesses also stated that she was subjected to physical violence, making her fall into a coma. Leaked medical records show that she sustained head injuries. She died in the intensive care unit at Kasra Hospital three days after her arrest.
Mahsa Amini: A Figure Of Change
Zhina’s death enraged many worldwide. Human rights advocates show their dissent, hoping to stir unity toward justice for Zhina and other women who experienced the same maltreatment.
Some women who oppose wearing the hijab have resorted to burning their headscarves and cutting their hair as a form of protest. Their demands include the removal of oppressive rulers and a call for change.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist and activist, mentioned that Iranian women have been experiencing oppression by the Iranian government for years and wish to receive equal rights.
Many countries like Australia, Argentina, and the United States condemned the incident. They expressed their support for the protesters, saying they will continue to support the people of Iran in their struggle to protect their rights.
Response Of Mahsa’s Family And Iranian Authorities
Zhina’s family disputed the claim of the morality police, saying that their daughter wore her headscarf correctly on the day of the incident. However, they can only do so much because of the Iranian authorities’ pressure on them. As a result, they were initially hesitant to hold a 40th-day ceremony to commemorate Zhina’s passing. Nonetheless, with the help of sympathizers, they were able to hold the ceremony in the Kurdistan province on October 26, 2022.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, mentioned that the incident ‘broke his heart’ but backed the morality police for maintaining peace and security across the country. He also blamed the United States and Israel for the turmoil. He claimed that security forces sustained violence and injustice from ‘planned riots’ from other states who allegedly wanted their country to fall. Aside from this, the Iranian authorities stated that Zhina’s cause of death was a heart attack or failure, contrary to her family’s claim that she was well on the day of the arrest.
Despite the criticisms that the Iranian rule is receiving from the rest of the world, they continue to quell the protests, believing they threaten the country’s security. Casualties started to mount as violence between the Iranian police and the protesters began to show. Hundreds lost their lives, and thousands were injured and arrested.
The hijab protests are not necessarily protests against Islam but those against oppression from Iranian rule. They’re also a movement that seeks to advance women’s rights.
What happened to Zhina is seen by many as a sign of change, especially by other women who face abuse for fighting for the freedom that they deserve.
With the amount of support from the rest of the world, it won’t be long until Iranian women receive the ‘right to have their choice’ without fear of violence from the authorities many expected to protect them.