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Death of Mahsa Amini

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Death of Mahsa Amini
Mahsa Amini.jpeg
Native name مهسا امینی
Date16 September 2022
LocationTehran, Iran
Also known asJina Amini
OutcomeMahsa Amini protests
BurialSaqqez, Iran

On 16 September 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini,[a] also known as Jina Amini,[b][1] died in a hospital in Tehran, Iran, under suspicious circumstances. The Guidance Patrol, the religious morality police of Iran's government, arrested Amini for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards. The Law Enforcement Command of Islamic Republic of Iran stated that before transferring her to the hospital, she had a heart attack at a police station, collapsed, and fell into a coma.[2][3] However, eyewitnesses, including women who were detained with Amini, reportedly said she was severely beaten, and that she died as a result of police brutality,[4][5][6] which was denied by Iranian authorities.[7] These assertions, in addition to leaked medical scans,[8] led independent observers to believe Amini had had a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.[9]

Amini's death resulted in a series of protests, described by CNN as more widespread than the protests in 2009, 2017, and 2019,[10] and by The New York Times as the largest Iranian protests since at least 2009.[11] Some female demonstrators removed their hijab or publicly cut their hair as acts of protest.[12] By the start of November 2022, Iran Human Rights reported that at least 304 people were killed by security forces confronting protests across the country;[13][14][15] Amnesty International reported that Iranian security forces were, in some cases, firing into groups with live ammunition, and in other cases were killing protesters by beating them with batons.[16]

Background

1979 Iranian Women Day's protests against mandatory hijab laws

Iran introduced a mandatory dress code for women, in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic standards, a short time after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. On 7 March, less than a month after the revolution, Khomeini decreed the hijab (Islamic headscarf) to be mandatory for all women in their workplace, and decreed that women would no longer be allowed to enter the workplace or any government office without the hijab, which he termed as "naked".[17][18] Khomeini said that they do not have to wear a full-body cover. He said that women can choose any kind of attire they like so long as it covers them properly and they have a hijab. His successor Ali Khamenei said that the hijab does not prevent social, political, or academic activities at all.[19]

Violence and harassment against women not wearing the hijab in accordance with Iranian government standards had been reported after the revolution, whether by law enforcement personnel or pro-government vigilantes.[20] From 1980, women could not enter government or public buildings or attend their workplace without a hijab. In 1983, mandatory hijab in public was introduced in the penal code, stating that "women who appear in public without religious hijab will be sentenced to whipping up to 74 lashes". But in practice, a number of women, such as Saba Kord Afshari and Yasaman Aryani, were sentenced only to heavy prison terms.[18]

In the last decade, clothing in Iranian society underwent significant changes, and young women in particular tend to be more liberal about hijab rules, prompting the Guidance Patrol, Iran's morality police, to launch intermittent campaigns to verbally admonish or violently[21][22][23][24][25][26] arrest and re-educate women they considered to be wearing the hijab incorrectly. Under routine circumstances, the detainees are brought to a center where they are re-instructed in the dress regulations, before being made to sign a pledge to uphold said regulations, and then being allowed to leave with their family.[27][28]

Protests against the compulsory hijab have been common since 1979, with one of the largest protests taking place between 8 and 14 March 1979, beginning on International Women's Day and a day after hijab rules were introduced by the Islamic Republic.[18] Protests against mandatory hijab rules continued, such as during the 2019–2020 protests, when protesters attacked a Guidance Patrol van and freed two detained women.[29]

In 2020, two representatives of Iranian government leader Ali Khamenei separately said that improperly veiled women should be made to feel "unsafe". The representatives later backtracked and said that their comments were misunderstood.[30] Among the general population, an independent survey conducted in the same year showed that 58% of Iranians did not believe in hijab altogether, and 72% were against compulsory hijab rules. Only 15% insisted on the legal obligation to wear it in public.[31][32]

A sign in a protest in Toronto with the epitaph on Amini's grave in Kurdish that reads "Jina, dear! You will not die. Your name will turn into a symbol."

Victim

Mahsa Amini was born on 21 September 1999[33][34] to a Kurdish family in Saqqez, Kurdistan Province, in northwestern Iran.[35] While Mahsa was her official Persian given name, her Kurdish name was Jina (also spelled Zhina), and was the name she was known as to her family.[36][37] She had one younger brother.[38] Her father is an employee in a government organization and her mother is a housewife.[39] She attended Taleghani Girls' High School in Saqqez, graduating in 2018. At the time of her death, Amini had just been admitted to university and aspired to become a lawyer.[40][41]

Amini's cousin, a left-wing political activist belonging to the Komala party and a Peshmerga fighter living in self-exile in Iraqi Kurdistan,[42] was the first member of Amini's family to speak to the media after her death.[43] He debunked claims by the Iranian government that Amini was involved in any politics.[42] Instead, Amini has been described as having been a "shy, reserved resident" of her hometown[44] who avoided politics, was never politically active as a teenager, and was not an activist.[39] Amini's family have described her as having no prior health conditions, and as being a "healthy" 22-year-old, contrasting the claims made by the Iranian government that she possessed prior health conditions.[38]

Protest in Ottawa, Canada.

Circumstances of death

Amini had come to Tehran to visit her brother[35] and on 13 September 2022 was arrested by the Guidance Patrol at the entry of the Shahid Haghani Expressway in Tehran while in the company of her family. She was then transferred to the custody of Moral Security.[45][46][47] Her brother, who had been with her when she was arrested,[35] was told she would be taken to the detention center to undergo a "briefing class" and released an hour later. Her brother was informed his sister had a heart attack and a brain seizure at the police station to which she had been taken.[48] Two hours after her arrest,[48] she was taken to Kasra Hospital.[49]

According to Amini's cousin, she was tortured and insulted in the van, as witnessed by her co-detainees. After she arrived at the police station, she began to lose vision and fainted. It took 30 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, and an hour and a half for her to get to Kasra hospital.[50]

For two days, Amini was in a coma in Kasra Hospital in Tehran.[51] On 16 September, journalist Niloofar Hamedi (later arrested) broke the story of her coma, posting to Twitter a photo of Amini's father and grandmother crying and embracing in the hospital hallway.[52] Amini died in the intensive care unit later that day.[53][54][55]

Aftermath

Kasra Hospital (pictured in 2016) was the place where Amini died.

According to the BBC, eyewitnesses said Amini was beaten by police while in the police van shortly after arrest. By 17 September, Iranian police were denying the allegations of beating, and were claiming she had "suffered a sudden heart failure".[56]

The clinic where Amini was treated released a statement on Instagram saying that she had already been brain dead when she had been admitted around 13 September. By 19 September, the post had been deleted.[57][58]

On 17 September, the police chief of Tehran stated that the grounds of Amini's arrest had been for wearing her headscarf improperly and for wearing tight pants.[59]

By 19 September, police had released CCTV footage showing a woman, who they identified as Amini, talking with an official who grabs Amini's clothing. Amini holds her head with her hands and collapses. Amini's father dismissed the footage as an "edited version" of events.[60]

Amini's brother noticed bruises on her head and legs. The women who were detained with Amini said she had been severely beaten for resisting the insults and curses of the officers who had arrested her.[failed verification][61]

Published hospital pictures show Mahsa Amini bleeding from the ear and sporting bruises under her eyes. In an 18 September letter, Doctor Hossein Karampour (the top medical official in Hormozgan province), pointed out that such symptoms "do not match the reasons given by some authorities who declared the cause to be a heart attack... (they are instead consistent with) a head injury and the resulting bleeding."[62] This was also confirmed by alleged medical scans of her skull, leaked by hacktivists, showing bone fracture, hemorrhage, and brain edema.[8][63]

According to Iran International, the Iranian government was forging fake medical records for Amini, showing that she had a history of heart disease. On 20 September, Dr. Massoud Shirvani, a neurosurgeon, stated on state-owned television that Amini had a brain tumor that was extracted at the age of eight.[64]

Low-res copy of Amini post-arrest CT scan allegedly leaked to Iran International

By 21 September, the hospital had released preliminary CT scans. Government supporters stated the CT scans showed psychological stress caused by a previous brain operation; critics stated the scans showed physical beating and trauma. The Iranian government stated Amini had a brain operation at the age of five.[65]

Regarding various government claims, Mahsa Amini's father (Amjad Amini) told the BBC around 22 September that "they are lying... She never had any medical conditions, she never had surgery." (Two classmates, interviewed by the BBC, said that they weren't aware of Mahsa ever being in hospital.) Amjad said he had not been allowed to view his daughter's autopsy report. He denied that Mahsa had been in bad health. "I asked them to show me the body-cameras of the security officers, they told me the cameras were out of battery." Iranian authorities had charged that Mahsa was wearing immodest clothes when arrested; Amjad rejected this claim, stating that she always wore a long overcoat. Amjad said he was repeatedly prevented by medical staff from seeing his daughter's body after her death: "I wanted to see my daughter, but they wouldn't let me in", and charged that when he asked to see the autopsy report, he was told by the doctor: "I will write whatever I want and it has nothing to do with you." Amjad saw the body after it had been wrapped for the funeral, and noticed bruises on her feet, but could not see the rest of the body due to the wrapping. Iranian authorities denied any head injuries or internal injuries.[66]

According to Iran International, on 29 September an audio file was released by a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, which reports unnamed "reliable sources" saying that the reason for Mahsa Amini's death was an injury to her skull and that the injury was the result of a severe beating.[67][68][69]

The Amini family's lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told the Etemad online news website that "respectable doctors" believe Mahsa was hit in custody.[70] Nikbakht also said the family wants a fact-finding committee to probe her death, and that police footage filmed after her arrest should be handed over.[71]

By 2 October, Amini's family had acknowledged that Amini had an operation for a minor neurological condition (possibly a brain tumor) at the age of eight, but said it had been under control through levothyroxine (medication to treat hypothyroidism), and that her doctors had recently given her the all-clear. Citing medical specialists they had consulted, the family stated the condition was unrelated to Amini's death.[72][73][74]

A 7 October coroner's report stated that Amini's death was "not caused by blows to the head and limbs" and instead linked her death to pre-existing medical conditions, ruling that she had died from multiple organ failure caused by cerebral hypoxia. The report stated Amini had had a brain tumor operation when she was eight. The report did not say whether Amini had suffered any injuries.[75]

In a 13 October letter, over 800 members of Iran's Medical Council accused the head of Iran's Medical Council of assisting in a government cover-up of the cause of Mahsa Amini's death.[76]

Protests

An ongoing series of protests and civil unrest against the government of Iran began in Tehran on 16 September 2022[77] as a reaction to the death of Amini that day following police custody, after she was arrested by the Guidance Patrol for wearing an "improper" hijab—in violation of Iran's mandatory hijab law—while visiting Tehran from Saqqez. According to eyewitnesses, Amini was severely beaten by Guidance Patrol officers—an assertion denied by Iranian authorities.[78][79]

The protests began hours after Amini's death, starting at the hospital in Tehran where she was treated and quickly spreading to other parts of the country, first to Amini's hometown of Saqqez and other cities in the Kurdistan Province, including Sanandaj, Divandarreh, Baneh, and Bijar.[80][81] In response to these demonstrations, beginning around 19 September the Iranian government implemented regional shutdowns of Internet access. As protests grew, a widespread Internet blackout was imposed along with nationwide restrictions on social media.[82][83] In response to the protests, people held demonstrations in support of the government across several cities in Iran, in an attempt to counter the protests.[84] The Iranian government has referred to these counter-protests as "spontaneous".[84] The pro-government protesters called for the anti-government protesters to be executed, and have referred to them as "Israel's soldiers", whilst shouting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", reflecting Iran's clerical rulers' usual narrative of putting the blame of the unrest on foreign countries.[84] On 3 October, in his first statement since the outbreak of the protests, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the widespread unrest as "riots", and likewise tried to cast it as a foreign plot.[85][86]

The inscription on Amini's tombstone reads in Kurdish:

Kurdish: ژینا گیان تۆ نامری. ناوت ئەبێتە ڕەمز
romanized: Jîna gyan to namirî. Nawit ebête remz.
"Beloved Žina [Mahsa], you will not die. Your name will become a code."[87][88]

Some sources use "rallying call"[89] or "symbol"[90] rather than "code" when translating the epitaph.

According to Iran Human Rights, as of 8 October 2022 at least 185 people[91] have been killed as a result of the government's intervention in the protests, involving tear gas and live rounds,[92][93][94] making the protests the deadliest since the 2019–2020 protests that resulted in more than 1,500 fatalities.[95] The government's response to the protests has largely been condemned, and the United States Department of the Treasury has sanctioned the Guidance Patrol and several high-ranking Iranian officials.

On the streets

People protest against Amini's killing in Tehran's Keshavarz Blvd

On 17 September, hours after Amini died, demonstrators gathered outside Kasra Hospital in Tehran, where Amini had been treated. Human rights groups reported that security forces deployed pepper spray against protesters and that several were arrested.[96] Then a series of protests broke out over Amini's death, including in Saqqez, her hometown.[97] Some shouted "death to the dictator", and Kurdish feminist slogans such as "woman, life, freedom".[98][99][97]

A spokesperson for Hengaw, a Kurdish human rights group, stated that "the security institutions forced the Amini family to hold the funeral without any ceremony to prevent tensions."[98]

On social media

Amini's beating and death caused widespread anger among several social networks. The hashtag #MahsaAmini became one of the most repeated hashtags on Persian Twitter. The number of tweets and retweets of these hashtags have exceeded 80 million.[100][101] Some Iranian women posted videos on social media of themselves cutting their hair in protest.[102] It was reported on 21 September that the Iranian government had blocked internet access to Instagram and WhatsApp and disrupted internet service in Kurdistan and other parts of Iran in an attempt to silence the unrest.[103] As of 24 September, the hashtag #Mahsa_Amini and its equivalent in Persian broke the Twitter record with more than 80 million tweets.[104][105] According to Professor Marc Owen Jones at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, of 108,000 accounts in a sample of online protestors, 13,000 were created in the month of September 2022, suggesting thousands of the accounts may be fake, presumably by pro- or anti-government manipulators.[106]

Reactions

In Iran

Amini's father was interviewed by various international media about his daughter's death and answered the claims of Iranian government officials.[107] In a phone call with him, the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, expressed regret over Amini's death. The governor of Kurdistan Province personally went to Amini's father's house and consoled him about the death of his daughter.[108] In an interview with BBC Persian, the father accused the authorities of lying about her death and noted that every time he was asked how he thinks she died, his response was mysteriously cut from local news broadcasts. He stressed that the authorities refused to let him see his daughter at the clinic, and that when he finally saw her body before the funeral, it was completely wrapped except for the face and feet, which had mysterious bruises.[109][110]

The well-known Iranian lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, described Amini's death as "murder".[111]

Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei called it a "bitter incident" and said that his "heart was broken for the young girl". But, also said "this chaos was planned," referring to the protests.[112] President Ebrahim Raisi said that the death of Mahsa Amini will be "pursued," calling it a "tragic incident," but said that "chaos is unacceptable".[113][114] He further accused western countries of "double standards" regarding human rights, adding "What about all the people killed by American police? Did all these deaths get investigated?".[115]

In October 2022, Amini's family complained about receiving death threats to warn them against attending the protests.[116]

Investigation

President Ebrahim Raisi asked Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi to investigate the cause of her death thoroughly.[117] In early October the Legal Medical Organization of the Irans judiciary reasoned Amini had died due to underlying disease stemming from brain surgery she had at the age of eight.[118]

International institutions and organizations

  • Amnesty International requested a criminal investigation into the suspicious death. According to this organization, "all responsible officers and officials" in this case must be brought to justice and "the conditions leading to her suspicious death, which include torture and other ill-treatment in the detention center, must be investigated criminally."[119][120][121]
  • Human Rights Watch called Amini's death "cruel" and demanded from the Iranian authorities to end the mandatory hijab law and enhance the women rights situation in the country.[122][123]
    • Additional concerns were raised by the group at the apparent lethal force retaliation by government officials to the protests.[124]
  • The Center for Human Rights in Iran declared Amini another victim of the Islamic Republic's "war on women" and stated that the tragedy should be strongly condemned worldwide to prevent further violence against women in Iran.[125]
  • Humanists International called for those responsible for the murder of Amini "to be held accountable", condemned Iran's "strictly enforced patriarchal religious norms", and added that "compulsory veiling is a human rights violation, and that appeals to religious 'morality' can never be used to police women's choices, or to invalidate their equal dignity and worth".[126]
  • The United Nations announced that the death and alleged torture of Amini should be investigated independently.[127][128] A joint statement by UN experts "strongly condemned the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody".[129]

Politicians

Politicians such as Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Nikki Haley, Senator Jim Risch, Farah Pahlavi, Masoud Barzani, Justin Trudeau, Masud Gharahkhani, Annalena Baerbock, Mélanie Joly, and others reacted to Amini's death.[130][131]

  • Javaid Rehman, United Nations special rapporteur, expressed his regret for the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran and added: "This incident is a sign of widespread violation of human rights in Iran."[132]
  • France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the torture that led to Amini's death.[133]
  • United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the killing in the custody of Iranian police forces and demanded an end to such actions by the Iranian government.[134][135]
  • On 17 September, Ayatollah Bayat-Zanjani of Iran described the Guidance Patrol as "not only an illegal and anti-Islamic body, but also illogical." He said it was unsupported by Iran's laws and engaged in "repression and immoral acts".[136]
  • Mohaqeq Damad said, "The establishment of the force for promotion of virtues and prevention of vice is in fact meant to monitor the rulers' actions, not to crack down on the citizens' freedoms and is a deviation from Islamic teachings."[137]
  • Chilean president Gabriel Boric, during his speech at the UN General Assembly, paid tribute to Amini and called for an end to the abuse of power by the powerful around the world.[138]
  • Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned former Co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) shaved his head together with his cellmate Adnan Mizrakli, the former Mayor of Diyarbakir.[139]
  • Several European Union officials have condemned her death.[140] Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief called her death "unacceptable".[140] A spokesperson issued a statement announcing that what happened to Amini is unacceptable and the perpetrators of this killing must be held accountable.[141]
  • US President Joe Biden, in the annual speech of world leaders to the United Nations on 21 September, referred to the situation of women in Iran and Amini's death and vowed solidarity with Iranian women.[142]
  • Robert Malley, the representative of the US in Iranian affairs, called Amini's death "horrific" and wrote: "Mahsa Amini’s death after injuries sustained in custody for an "improper" hijab is appalling. Our thoughts are with her family. Iran must end its violence against women for exercising their fundamental rights."[143]
  • Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of Germany, called Amini's death in police custody "terrible", and expressed his sadness at the deaths of "the brave women" at the protests. He added that women should be able to make their own decisions, and not live in fear.[144]
  • On 26 October 2022, women foreign ministers from a dozen nations led by Canada's Melanie Joly jointly condemned Iran's violent crackdown on women's rights. In a joint statement they said: "As women foreign ministers, we feel a responsibility to echo the voices of Iranian women".[145]

Celebrities

A number of celebrities and others reacted to Amini's death.[146][147]

  • American actress Leah Remini wrote on Twitter: "Killing of Mahsa Amini is unacceptable under any circumstances, but the fact that she was arrested for wearing an inappropriate hijab makes it even more appalling."[148][149]
  • Khaby Lame, an Italian influencer of Senegalese origin, wrote on his Instagram page, "The biggest war for women's rights and human rights is happening in Iran. If you live on earth and remain silent, you will never be able to speak about women's rights again."[150]
  • British Iranian comedian and author Shaparak Khorsandi, whose family fled Iran following the revolution, said "The Iranian regime kills women for trying to live freely. This is not just Iran's problem, it is the world's problem. Do not look away. This denial of basic human rights is an affront to human dignity. Mahsa Amini cannot speak up any more. The world should act in solidarity and amplify her voice and the voices of all Iranian women who dare to speak up for choice and democracy".[151]
  • Australian actor Nathaniel Buzolic, publishing a picture of Amini on his Instagram, asked: "Where are the feminists? Why is the world silent?"[152]
  • Turkish actress Nurgül Yeşilçay published a picture of Amini in her Instagram story and wrote: "It's unfortunate... Alas for all the women in the world."[153][154]
  • J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, posted on Twitter, "Then the rest of the world needs to keep saying her name. #MahsaAmini died aged 22 in police custody because she violated hijab regulations. Solidarity with all Iranians currently protesting."[127]

Others

  • The hacker group Anonymous claimed to have disrupted several Iranian government and state-affiliated media websites in support of the protests and released a video announcing the group's support of the protests along with footage of the protests.[155]

Sanctions

Following Amini's death and the associated protests, countries and entities such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union sanctioned Iran over human rights violations relating to Amini's death and the subsequent protests.[156]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Persian: مهسا امینی
  2. ^ Zhina Amini is also a common spelling; Persian: ژینا امینی; Kurdish: ژینا ئەمینی, romanized: Jîna Emînî

References

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External links