Protesters have recently flooded the streets in Iran in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s “morality police.” Amini was arrested for improperly wearing a hijab and died a few days later in police custody.
The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was traveling in her brother’s car in Iran’s capital, Tehran, when she was arrested on Sept. 13, and officials reported that she died of a heart attack after slipping into a coma on Sept. 16. Her family, however, disputes a heart attack as her cause of death, and has reported that the young woman had no heart issues or preexisting conditions. Photos of Amini after her arrest show her bruised, and eyewitnesses claim to have seen her beaten by police while she was in custody. The police have strongly denied this, saying she was taken to the hospital after she collapsed. The “morality police” in Iran are responsible for enforcing strict modesty dress codes, including the proper wearing of a hijab, a traditional headcovering worn by some Muslim women.
Protests began in the following days, demanding a formal investigation and more answers as to what really happened to Amini. Iran’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, and Iran’s Chief Justice, Mohseni Ejei, have both promised full investigations into the matter and expressed sympathy to the family, according to NPR. The United Nations has also addressed the incident and has called for an impartial inquiry.
Calls for a formal investigation are what sparked the protests, but they quickly spiraled into more demands for reform and women’s rights. Some women began burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in front of crowds during protests in defiance of strict laws that are monitored by the “morality police.” These laws have existed since Iran’s 1979 Revolution, but criticism has been growing. The protests in recent days are at an unprecedented level, and Amini’s death has caused a new social movement to form in Iran.
The Iranian government has been swiftly cracking down on the protest, and at least 41 people
have died in clashes with police as of Sept. 25, according to The Guardian. Due to the increased interest in the case across social media platforms, the government has also been cracking down on internet access across the country. Videos and images of protests and of Amini have spread rapidly across social media, and the government has responded by restricting internet access, specifically targeting platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. As a result, some Iranians have been turning to VPNs to attempt to get around such restrictions, according to CNN.
Jacob Desenberg, the Vice President of Hope Interfaith Youth Alliance, or HIYA, spoke about the situation in Iran and HIYA’s response. “At HIYA, we do stand for the women of Iran and the struggles they are going through right now with the unjustified killing of [Mahsa Amini]. And we also wanted to give a look into, Islamically speaking, her death is unjustified and doesn’t make any sense. It is a deep problem that is going on in the world right now, so we do stand with them. If you first look into what is going on in Iran you may think that this is just a strict, like, Islamic Republic justification of the killing, but it’s not.”
The tragic situation in Iran is important for the Hope community to address and understand, especially in understanding the differences between the decisions Iran’s government makes and what the beliefs of the Islamic faith are. HIYA works to promote learning and understanding across campus. HIYA hosts discussions, panels, and other events that are welcome to all students interested in learning about new cultures and religions. “We try and do some outreach,” Desenberg added about the organization’s mission. “We do try to do things to let the community know.” For example, at a recent meeting the group shared their interfaith experiences with one another. “Hope is a Christian college, but there are a lot of students here with different denominations, different beliefs, so it is interesting to see,” Desenberg said