Iranian women take off hijab, protest death of 22-year-old held for ‘flouting’ dress code

Women protesters remove their hijabs, a punishable crime in Iran, and chant 'Death to Dictator' during the protests after the ‘violent’ arrest and death of Mahsa Amini, in her hometown Saghez

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Hitting the streets in Western Iran on Saturday, several women took off their hijabs as a mark of protest over the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested and beaten up by the country’s morality police allegedly for infringing hijab rules amid Iranian crackdown on women’s dress. Hijab, a head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women, is mandatory in Iran.

Viral social media videos showed women protesters removing their hijabs, a punishable crime in Iran, and chanting ‘Death to Dictator’ during the protests in Amini’s hometown Saghez. Amini was reportedly travelling to Iran’s capital Tehran from the western province of Kurdistan with her family to meet relatives on Tuesday when she was arrested. Tehran police said Amini had been arrested for “justification and education” about the hijab, as per BBC News. Witnesses said Amini was grabbed by police officers and forced inside a vehicle.

Hours after her arrest, Amini’s family was notified that she had been taken down to the Kasra hospital where she was moved to an intensive-care unit. The police said that she suffered a heart attack, a claim the family has strongly opposed, saying that she was healthy until she was arrested. The Guardian reported that Iranian human rights organisation Hrana said that Amini’s family had been told that she would be released after a “re-education session”.


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The incident took place weeks after Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s hardliner president, ordered stricter enforcement of the women’s dress code, including wearing a hijab at all times. He also stipulated harsher punishments for the violations of the code. Amini died in the hospital on Friday, prompting several human rights organizations to call for an investigation into the questionable circumstances surrounding the death.

“The circumstances leading to the suspicious death in custody of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa Amini, which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, must be criminally investigated,” Amnesty International said.

Amini’s death has sparked an outcry in Iran, including a protest in a Tehran square near the hospital she died in, according to Sky News. National security advisor Jake Sullivan said the US is “deeply concerned” by the “unforgivable” death. “We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for such human rights abuses,” he said on Twitter.

According to the state-run IRNA news agency, President Ebrahim Raisi has asked Iran’s interior ministry to “investigate the cause of the incident with urgency and special attention.”