Anti-Hijab protests in Iran have reached thier 10th day with rising death tolls. A series of demonstrations in Iran began after the killing of Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022. The young woman was brutally beaten up in the custody of Iran’s morality police for wearing the hijab “improperly”. She slipped into a coma with a fractured skull and gave up in 3 days. In response, thousands of men and women have taken to the streets to protest the oppressive regime’s compulsory hijab rule. Demonstrators have chanted phrases like “death to the dictator” to denounce the government. Many women protestors all over Iran have removed and burned thier hijabs, chopped off thier hair, dancing around a large bonfire to the public applause and chants of “zan, zindagi, aazadi” (women, life, freedom).
The government led by President Ebrahim Raisi has unleashed security forces to crack down on the protestors. According to state-backed media reports, 41 protestors have died in the ongoing clashes with police. However, many other sources have suggested a higher number. Iran Human Rights (IRH) from Norway claimed that the death toll was at least 57, but internet blackouts in the country made it harder to confirm in each city. Various reports claim that over 1000 protestors have been arrested by now.
Anti-Hijab Protests Go International
Anti-Hijab protests have also gone beyond Iran in support of Iranian women. According to the latest reports, clashes erupted in London and Paris between police and demonstrators trying to reach Iranian embassies. In London, Metropolitan Police reported that a “substantial group” gathered outside the embassy with an “intent to cause disorder”. 5 officers were injured, and 12 demonstrators, who were trying to cross the barriers of the Iran embassy, were arrested. Police also said they threw “bottles, masonry, and other projectiles” at the officers, who were hospitalized with “several injuries, including broken bones”.
On the other hand, things began peacefully in Paris with demonstrators chanting phrases like “death to the Islamic Republic”. However, as they started approaching the Iranian embassy, French police in riot gear blocked their path with a row full of vans. According to the police statement, 4000 protestors tried to break through the roadblock but were repelled by tear gas. One was arrested for “outrage and rebellion”, and one officer was slightly injured.
What is Morality Police in Iran?
Iran’s morality police, known as Gasht-e Ershad (Guidance Patrol), is the regime’s enforcer. It was established in 2005 to ensure citizens follow strict dress codes and avoid mixing (men and women together) in public. One of these rules is to warn or arrest those who violate mandatory hijab rules, which are usually women. This force patrols in a white van with green stripes in areas where women and young people gather. Their mere sight is enough to instil terror inside the citizens, making them rearrange their dress according to regulations. Women’s freedom is their primary target. Sometimes they let people go with a warning, but other times they detain them. They bring the detainees to a correctional facility, where they “re-educate” them for hours. Detainees are also forced to sign documents promising not to repeat the mistake. Then they call families to pick them up.
Iran has always had some kind of morality police since Islamic Revolution in 1979 with different names. Women activists have been doing anti-hijab protests for decades. They have called the Gasht-e Ershad un-Islamic as it violates the dignity and rights of women. In Islam during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there was no morality police for targeting women. Islamic Leader appointed a Muhtasib (market inspector) to protect traders and customers and prevent corruption or fraud. Once, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had even set a woman as a Muhtasib in Medina. The idea of overseeing broader public morals (including women’s dress) came centuries later in modern Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Sudan. It was probably a result of misinterpreting Sharia Law or painting a specific picture of Islam to the rest of the world.
Women Standing up for thier Choice all Over the World
Leaders, celebrities, human rights organizations, and many others around the world have supported the anti-Hijab protests against the Iranian regime and its so-called morality police. Almost the entire world has condemned the killing of Mahsa Amini and applauded the women who have burned their hijab in protest. It is another example of women standing up to powerful men for their right to choose. Iranian women have won the hearts of many for raging against the mandatory hijab while suffering violence from the regime. It is part of a larger struggle that many women go through, like the fight for abortion rights in the US. There are protests on the streets and even on social media in the form of memes. It is about time women stop suffering at the hands of their respective dictatorial or conservative regimes and even societies that refuse to accept thier equality with men.