Reacting to the death of a Kurdish woman who was arrested by “morality police” for not properly donning a head covering, emboldened Iranians are openly defying the Islamic regime despite a brutal crackdown, with women burning their hijabs in public.
The protests, which have spread to dozens of cities, have resulted in the injury and death of police officers and the burning of police stations and vehicles. The official death toll is 17. The non-governmental group Iran Human Rights said at least 31 civilians had been killed by security forces.
The Kurdish woman, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, was arrested and severely beaten in Tehran on Sept. 13, according to witnesses, after arriving from the country’s ethnic Kurdish region. The mullah-governed regime claims she died of a heart attack.
Iran’s Gasht-e Ershad, or Guidance Patrols, are special police units that enforce the regime’s interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law, which requires women to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothing.
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On Thursday, the United States Treasury announced new sanctions targeting the morality police and security officials. President Biden is attempting to resurrect the nuclear deal canceled by President Trump. But Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired Sunday that while the new administration claims it is “different from the Trump administration … we haven’t witnessed any changes in reality.”
Iranian officials deny there was any abuse in the death of Amini, insisting she died from a pre-existing condition. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the mullahs’ military wing, said in a statement it has “requested the judiciary to identify those who spread false news and rumors on social media as well as on the street and who endanger the psychological safety of society and to deal with them decisively.”
However, the Kurdish woman’s father, Amjad Amini, told the BBC his daughter had no serious health problems and he was refused permission to see her body.
“My son was with her. Some witnesses told my son she was beaten in the van and the police station,” he said. “My son begged them not to take her, but he was beaten too, his clothes were ripped off.”
The New York Times called the protests “one of the most daring displays of defiance of the government’s religious and social restrictions in years.”
On Tuesday night in the city of Kerman, a video reported by CNN shows a massive crowd cheering as a woman chops off her ponytail and raises her fist in the air as people chant “death to the dictator.”
A video posted on Twitter shows a man believed to be a plainclothes morality police officer striking a woman in the face who apparently was violating the hijab law. As the man returns to his moped, the video shows, he is surrounded by men who had witnessed him striking the woman, and they begin to beat him.
In 2018, members of a growing grass-roots movement in Iran seeking to overthrow the mullah-led regime engaged in public demonstrations said to have been prompted by new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on top of the canceling of the nuclear agreement.
A year later, in November 2019, Iranian security forces killed an estimated 1,500 civilians in one week in a crackdown on street demonstrations.