Protests and demonstrations continue taking place in Iran- and around the world- following the death of 22 year old Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran's morality police. Amini died three days after being detained on September 13 after being accused of violating the country’s dress codes by not properly covering her hair with a headscarf or hijab. Many witnesses claim that police beat her inside the van transporting her to a detention center. However, The Iranian Legal Medical Organization said in a report that an “underlying disease” related to surgery Amini had at the age of eight caused her to lose consciousness. Amini's family has not yet commented on the report. Although the circumstances surrounding Mahsa Amini’s death remain unknown, Amini’s death has nonetheless prompted a moment of defiance by Iranian women and men.
Since Amini’s death, thousands of protestors have taken to the streets to demand accountability for the death of Mahsa Amini and an end to violence and discrimination against women. Amid protests across Iran, women have cut their hair and burned their headscarves as an act of defiance in honor of Amini.
The nonprofit Iran Human Rights has estimated that at least 154 people, including children, have been killed in the nationwide protests across Iran, with widespread arrests of protestors and activists.
Protestors have also taken to social media to demand justice for Amini’s death, posting videos of the protests in Iran showing women waving their hijabs in the air and some of them even throwing their head scarves into bonfires.
Although Donya Dadrasan, a 24-year-old Iranian pop star with over 2.5 million followers on social media, moved to Australia at 12 years old, she never forgot her female family members' fear of authorities in Iran.
“All the women around me were always scared and stressed when they saw the morality police,” she said in an interview. After hearing the news of Mahsa Amini’s death, Dadrasan was outraged. In response, Dadrasan cut her hair and posted her doing so on TikTok and Instagram. Along with Dadrasan, women around the world have posted similar videos of them cutting their hair and burning their hijabs to social media platforms. Other protestors have done so at gatherings and protests throughout Iran.
Young women and girls have been at the forefront of this movement. Videos posted on Twitter show students in Iran taking off their headscarves in response to the school bringing in a parliamentary officer to speak to students.
Overseas, thousands of Iranian Americans took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Protest leaders led chants of “zan, zendegi, azadi” or “woman, life, freedom” – a rallying cry of the movement. Southern California has the largest number of Iranian residents outside of Iran. Outside of Los Angeles, protests were also planned in Orange County, San Diego, and over a dozen other cities across the United States including New York, Denver, Chicago, and New York, among others.
The current protests in Iran differ from previous movements such as Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, when Iranians protested in response to a presidential election they believed was fraudulent. Mohammad Ali Kadivar, an assistant professor of sociology and international studies at Boston College, said in an interview, “The discourse of that movement was a reformist discourse, it was not calling for a full break from the framework of the Islamic Republic.” He continued, “Women were present in 2009.... Women’s issues were I think articulated in 2009. But they didn’t have the leading role that they have now.”
Further, Tara Sepehri Far, a senior researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, told USA Today, “Them doing it collectively as an act of defiance, it has forever moved the debate forward," she said. "For brief moments, the city experienced defiance of women without hijab, the imagination that was once impossible for many people became reality.”