Mahsa Amini: We stand in solidarity

Here at Welcome Merchant we believe that all women deserve to live full and free lives in safety. We care deeply about the situation unfolding in Iran, and are closely following the ripple effects of Mahsa Amini’s death. Here’s an explainer on what is happening and why it matters.

Protestors in a crowd hold up a sign showing the image of Mahsa Amini with her name as a hashtag on the image.
Photo by Artin Bakhan on Unsplash

Mahsa Amini. remember her name

On the 16th of September, Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, 22 years of age, died in a Tehran hospital after two days in a coma. Prior to arriving in hospital she had been taken into custody by the ‘morality police’ of Iran’s Law Enforcement Command, allegedly for not wearing her hijab according to the standards of the law, while other outlets report it due to wearing tight trousers. While it’s not clear what exactly happened between arrest and collapse, eye-witness reports claim that Mahsa was beaten in custody. Other inmates in custody came forward to share what they had seen, as well as Mahsa’s brother noting that her body was bruised and bleeding. Law enforcement claimed that she had suffered a heart attack and brain seizure; however, leaked hospital documents showed evidence of injuries congruent with a beating that caused brain hemorrhaging. The Iranian government has disputed the cause of death, while accusations have been made that the government forged fake medical records for Mahsa. Most believe that Mahsa was assaulted in custody at the hands of the morality police. Her death has kicked off violent protests in Iran, and around the globe, as public unrest grows and rioting continues. State media has claimed 41 people have died amid the angry demonstrations rallying against the Iranian government, strict dress code enforcements and corruption.

Iran and the governing of women’s rights

Shortly after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 Iranian government began to introduce a mandatory dress code for women, and a less strict dress code for men. The new laws meant that women had to wear a hijab and loose fitting clothing to enter government buildings, public buildings or workplace settings and, by 1983, anywhere in public. To breach the rules meant a punishment of whipping up to 74 lashes, or in some cases heavy prison sentences, enforced by police and pro-regime vigilantes. Over the past decade, as society has changed and younger women in particular have become more carefree about hijab rules, the Iranian government has doubled down with new campaigns to enforce the law. Women are routinely harassed, abused, violently arrested and taken in for hours of “re-education” on dress codes. While government leaders continue to take a conservative approach to dress code rules, independent surveys of Iranian population have cited that 76% are against compulsory hijab rules. It’s important to note that protests are not fighting against Islam, or the removal of the hijab, but against the oppression of women. They are fighting for freedoms, for basic rights and against corruption in government.

The world reacts. An outpouring of solidarity

Protests and vigils have been held around the world in a show of solidarity with Mahsa Amini, her family, and the people of Iran. The protests in Iran have raged violently since, seeing deaths, rioting, and the largest show of civil unrest in years. People are risking their lives to call for change. In Iran and around the globe women have been cutting their hair off in a show of defiance, anger and bravery. The death of Mahsa has united many groups, men and women, young and old, different ethnicities in the largest anti-government movement in Iran since 2019s fuel protests. It’s being reported that the government has turned off the internet in parts of the country and blocked apps including Instagram and WhatsApp as videos of the unrest continue to go viral. The Iranian government has denied law enforcement’s involvement in Mahsa’s death and accused foreign countries of trying to destabilize Iran as the outside world condemns the situation.

Protestors wave the pre-Iranian revolution Iranian flag and a sign held reads 'woman, life, freedom'
Photo by Artin Bakhan on Unsplash

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