Iran’s ‘George Floyd’ Movement
She came out from her residence, without wearing a proper hijab. Hence, the Guidance Patrol of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a special Police squad in charge of public implementation of Islamic hijab regulations, took the 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini (July 22, 2000 – September 16, 2022), also known as Zhina Amini or Jina Amini, to a Police Station for not meeting the Government’s mandatory Hijab standards. Later, the lady died mysteriously in Police custody. This incident happened in the West Asian nation on September 16, 2022. Iranian President Sayyid Ebrahim Raisolsadati, commonly known as Ebrahim Raisi, immediately asked his Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi to “investigate the cause of the incident with urgency and special attention”.
Mahsa, along with her family members, was on her way to a relative’s place in Tehran from Kurdistan by car on September 13 morning. The Iranian Morality Police stopped their car near the Martyr Haqqani metro station, to check whether the women met the Hijab standards. While the Morality Police alleged that Mahsa did not wear a hijab, her family claimed that the Police forcefully took her with them.
According to Mahsa’s elder brother Kiarash Amini, the Police told them that they were taking his sister to the local Police Station for an hour in order to teach her Islamic customs. Within an hour from that time, Kiarash found an ambulance arriving at the Police Station. The Police informed the family that Mahsa suffered a cardiac arrest. She breathed her last at a hospital on September 16. The local media, too, confirmed the news, mentioning that she fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at Vozara Detention Centre, and died three days later.
Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA covered the news, first, on September 16. Human Rights activists in Iran demanded a full investigation of the incident immediately after the report was published. CCTV footage, released by Iran’s state media, appeared to show her collapsing at a re-education centre where she had been taken by the Morality Police to receive guidance on her attire. Surprisingly, about 19 seconds of Mahsa’s conversation with the Police was missing from the footage!
Speaking at a press conference, Hossein Rahimi, the Greater Tehran Police Commander, stressed: “The incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents.” He also said that “false accusations” had been made against the Iranian Police, as Mahsa was not harmed physically in Police custody. He further said that the Police had “done everything” to keep her alive. However, Mahsa’s family members refused to accept the statement issued by Commander Rahimi, saying that she did not have a pre-existing heart condition. Kiarash claimed that as per doctors’ diagnoses, his sister suffered from a heart attack or a stroke, “and that while her heart was still beating, her brain was no longer conscious”. He alleged that Mahsa was severely beaten inside the Police van while being taken to the Vozara Detention Centre.
Meanwhile, Mahsa’s mysterious death sparked anti-Government protests across Iran. Protestors are “not convinced” by the Police’s justification of Mahsa’s death, claiming that she succumbed to the injuries inflicted on her, during torture. Students and women have taken to the streets in Tehran and other major Iranian cities, demanding justice and accountability for the death of Mahsa. Protesters have also clashed with the Police in the northwestern Kurdistan Province. One video, circulating on social media, showed women in Tehran taking off their hijab and waving it while chanting “Death to the dictator”. Another video showed a motorcycle set on fire near the judiciary building in Tehran. Some female protesters also burned their hijabs. So far, more than 50 people have been killed in Police firing.
The global community has slammed Iran for its failure in ensuring basic Human Rights. US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley took to Twitter, urging Iran to “end its improper violence against women for exercising their Fundamental Rights”. He added: “Those responsible for her death should be held accountable.” Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, too, has expressed serious concern over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, insisting: “Mahsa’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth.”
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