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In September, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, died. The Hill reported that she was in police custody for several days. She was arrested for wearing her hijab incorrectly. It violated “Iran’s strict dress codes for women in public.”
After being detained for three days, she fell. Soon after, she went to the hospital, where she would later die. Iranian officials announced that she had died from a heart attack.
According to United Against Nuclear Iran, the police told her brother that she was detained for wearing her hijab improperly and would need to attend “an education and orientation class”. Onlookers said Amini was beaten on the way to the police station.
A video showed Amini going to the class and then falling. President Raisi spoke to Amjad, Mahsa Amini’s father. During their conversation, the father said the video was fabricated and edited. Also, he was denied access to the video of his daughter’s trip.
Her death sparked protests. As an act of resistance, Iranian women engulfed their headscarves or hijabs in flames.
Young Iranian female students took off their headscarves and shouted, “death to the dictator,” aimed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.
During the protests, authorities used “pellet guns, tear gas and live ammunition” to separate the protesters. According to the BBC, at one point, the death total was approximately 234 people.
Consequently, countries such as the United States denounced Iran, especially toward protesters. Specifically, the U.S. penalized Iranian officials for their attacks on protesters.
“This week, The United States will be imposing further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters. We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely”, President Biden stated.
During a graduation celebration for military cadets in Tehran, Khamenei labeled the protest “as rioting instigated by foreign powers” like the U.S. and Israel. Iran’s current history tells another story.
Oppression of Iranian women
Iran is oppressive toward women. In February 2022, Ghazaleh Heydari, a 17-year-old, was decapitated. Soon after, her husband and brother-in-law were detained. They committed the heinous act due to a familial disagreement.
At 12 years old, Heydari was involved in an arranged marriage to her cousin. She was fleeing an abusive situation and went to Turkey, but relatives took her back to Iran.
Sadly, she became a victim of femicide. Human rights watch reported, “a BBC Persian report showed that murders labeled in investigations as “honour killings” constituted around 39 percent of all murders between 2013 and 2017.
The laws in Iran say when the family of the victim doesn’t ask for a qisa. Qisa is the idea that the suspect receives a similar punishment to what they committed. The suspect can be incarcerated possibly for a decade behind bars. However, this is not always the case. Most times, families are connected to the victim and the perpetrator. The families do not push for stricter punishments and lawyers do not seek out lengthy prison terms.
Women’s rights advocates have been fighting for close to 20 years to have a domestic violence bill. In 2021, “Protection, Dignity and Security of Women against Violence,” a domestic violence bill, was presented to parliament.
Included in the bill was the ability to speed up domestic violence reports, create a fund for victims, put in place restraining orders, etc. One of the things it failed to address was marital rape and child marriage.
Iran and suppression of the press
Not only do Iran crush the voice of their people, but they also do it to journalists. Currently, they are ranked 178 out of 180. They are considered to be one of the world’s ten worst countries for press freedom.
Furthermore, Iran is third in the world regarding imprisoned journalists. Nilufar Hamedi, who was one of a handful of journalists to report on Mahsa Amini and was locked up, perished while in custody.
31 journalists had been incarcerated since the passing of Amini. Out of that 31, 27 remained locked up and 10 are women. Currently, the total number of journalists in prison is 44, according to reporters without borders.
None of this is new. It isn’t easy to be a journalist. During an interview with Yeganeh Rezaian, a CPJ senior researcher, stated that Iran is always labeled “as one of the most censored countries in the world.”
“The work of journalists still inside Iran is a very precious commodity,” Rezaian remarked.
It faces “extinction due to traditional journalists” finding it difficult to cover subject matters like politics. Traditional news media platforms are run by Iran.
As an alternative, reporters rely on the power of social media to disseminate news. Unfortunately, government watchdogs reconnoiterer social media.
Journalists that use social media face backlash. For instance, most of the 40 reporters who have been documented were detained because of their use of Twitter to cover the protests.
How the government tries to suppress any press freedom is not new. What is different is the amount of violence being used publicly against journalists. Iran isn’t shying from beating journalists in public, while they arrest them in the streets, or when they raid their homes. One reporter was attacked in front of his daughter.