Anger over the death of an Iranian woman detained by morality police has turned into widespread opposition to Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime. Clashes between protesters and Iranian security forces intensify every day. Women cut their hair and remove their headscarves in public, in defiance of the country’s strict dress code.
On Wednesday, President Ibrahim Raisi is set to face questions about the bloody protests in an interview with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour. Amanpour said he abandoned the interview after she refused to wear the hijab.
Raisi, a hardline conservative who was elected president in June 2021, was in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, where he criticized the “double standards of some governments regarding human rights” in a speech earlier that day. In a tweet on Twitter, the announcer said he had scheduled an interview with Amanpour in the evening, his first ever on US soil.
Forty minutes after the interview began, Amanpour said that his assistant asked her to wear a headscarf, and she said that “Politely refused.”
“The aide made it clear that the interview wouldn’t happen if I didn’t wear the hijab,” she wrote. “It’s a matter of respect,” he said, referring to “the situation in Iran” in reference to the protests sweeping the country.
Iran has been engulfed by protests that erupted after the killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, while she was being held by morality police in Tehran.
Tehran’s police chief, Brigadier General Hossein Rahimi, said Amini was arrested on September 13 for wearing an “improper headscarf” and for wearing tight pants. Women in Iran are required to cover their hair completely and wear loose clothing that conceals their bodies as part of the laws governing women’s public display that were enacted after the Islamic revolution in the 1970s.
Authorities claimed that Amini had a heart attack while in custody, fell into a coma, and died.
But the account of those responsible for her death was widely rejected, including by her family, who said Amini had no previous health problems. Her father, Amjad Amini, told BBC Persian he had seen her legs bruised, but he was not allowed to see the back of her head before she was buried.
Rahimi denied being beaten by the police, describing the accusations as “cowardly”, according to Al Jazeera.
Protests erupted over Amini’s death in her hometown of Saqqaz after her funeral on Saturday. They soon spread across the country, increasing in size and scope as protesters called for the overthrow of the regime. Videos show women confronting armed officials, burning their headscarves, and cutting their hair.
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There is no official count of the number of people killed in clashes with security forces over the past week. The Associated Press reported that at least nine people have died. The Iranian Human Rights Organization, an Oslo-based non-governmental organization, said 31 civilians were killed.
Mobile networks have also been shut down, and access to Instagram and WhatsApp has been restricted. Netblocks, which tracks network restrictions, said Iran is experiencing a test ‘The Internet’s Toughest Restriction’ Since the bloody November 2019 protests sparked by the gasoline price crisis.
Iran faces international condemnation for Amini’s death and violent suppression of protesters. People demonstrated outside Iranian consulates and embassies in cities around the world. On Thursday, the United States announced imposing sanctions on the country’s morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women, and for violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters.”
In the past, the Iranian government has targeted people who defy the mandatory headscarf law and protest the treatment of women in public. But the UN human rights office said authorities have expanded their enforcement of a women’s dress code in recent months, arresting and physically harassing women they believe wear “loose headscarves”. The agency said it had verified videos showing the authorities slapping and beating women with batons and throwing them into police trucks for not wearing the headscarf properly.
An Iranian woman described by BBC Sarah said the systemic oppression women face in public is no longer acceptable.
“There is no freedom in Iran. For example, if I want to sing as a solo singer, there is no possibility for me. If I want to dance as a solo dancer, there is no possibility for me,” she said. “Half the professions – I can’t be in that profession because of my gender, because of the Islamic rules they apply in our country. So there is no freedom for us.”
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