Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was found deceased on September 16, 2022, in a hospital in Tehran, Iran, under suspicious circumstances. The ‘Guidance Patrol,’ the Iranian government’s religious morality police, detained Amini for not donning a headscarf in accordance with accepted practices. She suffered a heart attack at a police station, collapsed, and slipped into a coma, according to the Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who then took her to the hospital. Amini was apparently badly assaulted and died due to police brutality, according to eyewitnesses, including women imprisoned with her. These claims and leaked medical scans led observers to speculate that Amini had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke. More widespread protests than those in 2009, 2017, and 2019 followed Amini’s passing. Some female protesters chopped their hair in the open or removed their hijabs in a show of disapproval.
Iran has entered its eighth week of civil unrest. The protests have brought about bloodshed and violence: According to the Norwegian-based NGO Iran Human Rights, the Iranian government has killed at least 327 individuals, including 43 children, and according to Amnesty International, Iranian security forces have been using live ammo and physical attacks against protestor groups. According to reports, the country’s Revolutionary Court has started handing down death sentences in connection with the demonstrations.
The Revolutionary Court in Tehran determined that one unnamed defendant was guilty of “enmity against God” for setting fire to a government building. He was given the death penalty, while five other defendants were sentenced to five to ten years in prison for violating public order and national security. It is anticipated that more than 15,000 protesters will receive death sentences. According to other reports, 227 members of the Iranian parliament demanded in a letter that the demonstrators receive harsh punishment that “would serve as a good lesson in the shortest possible time” and “no leniency” toward them. The parliament approved the death sentence for demonstrators by a wide margin. Out of the 290 members, 227 voted in favor of executing all detained protesters.
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The UN issued a statement: “We urge Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests and reiterate our call to immediately release all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.”
While claiming to be the guardians of Islam in Iran, it appears that the current regime has actually driven a generation away from religion through its actions. This is especially true of the young protesters currently defying the Iranian government. They have been engaged in a historical struggle to restore human dignity and personal and social freedoms. By portraying the demonstrations as being against Islamic principles and a Western ploy, the regime is able to defend its treatment of the populace. While many revolutionaries are discussing the matter of regime change, the ruling power has significant economic interests in Iran and wants to maintain power at all costs. In order to confront this, the people of Iran need support from the rest of the world. Mojtaba, Khamenei’s son, is likely to succeed him due to his deteriorating health, and Iran’s moral police have lost their ability to intimidate the population. As women take charge of the movement for the first time in Iranian history, the outcome of the protests remains uncertain.