Protests started small outside Tehran hospital after a 22-year-old Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, died after being detained by “morality police” who claimed Amini violated the country’s dress code for women. The protests began Friday with the Kurdish minority from the northwestern town of Saqez, but as more and more videos spread online, others took to the streets to show their disappointment and rage.
Happy birthday #Mahsa_Amini , the daughter of Iran. You are our angel. You are the symbol of freedom. You will be always in our heart, soul and mind until the last breath.
تولدت مبارک دختر ایران، #مهسا_امینی#internetshutdown pic.twitter.com/iDEVxQskNm
— mrjk (@jungkook_mah) September 22, 2022
Amini’s family told reporters that Iran’s morality police arrested her on Sept. 13. They accused her of improperly wearing her hijab, then immediately took her in a van to a police station. Amini fell into a coma while being detained with other women.
Amini’s family is now accusing the police of abusing her while in custody and rushing her as they “stage her funeral in Saqez…without sharing results of an autopsy.” The Iranian police denied these allegations and said it was a heart problem that caused her death. However, Amini’s family said they have no history of heart problems.
As of writing, protests are still happening in Iran as they shout slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Here are some of the videos caught by citizens.
Incredible video of protesters in #Iran destroying security vehicles. We’ve never seen these kinds of images in previous protests. The Iranian people’s quest for accountability remains the greatest fear of the mullahcracy of terror. #Mahsa_Amini pic.twitter.com/Clf4PNsVHL
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) September 21, 2022
The streets look like war-torn areas.
— 🏴 Rhara 🏴 (@iam_rhara) September 22, 2022
Iranian “morality” police continue to arrest women.
— Meleğim 🧚♀️ limit (@melegimsta) September 22, 2022
In Kerman city centre, protesters directly confront riot police and plainclothes officers, preventing them from beating and arresting fellow protesters, on the fifth day of unrest in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.pic.twitter.com/8KfgjRvTYz
— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) September 21, 2022
Photos obtained by @AFP outside of Iran show Iranian demonstrators protesting in Tehran on September 21 in support of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by the morality police.
Police used tear gas and made arrests to disperse protesters, official IRNA news agency says pic.twitter.com/hozkxTzlFP
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) September 22, 2022
Women are cutting their hair and burning hijabs.
— Ahmad Batebi (@radiojibi) September 22, 2022
Unprecedented scenes in Iran: woman sits on top of utility box and cuts her hair in main square in Kerman to protest death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police. People clap their hands and chant “Death to the dictator.” #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/2oyuKV80Ac
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) September 20, 2022
Starlink Steps In to Fight Censorship
Because of the widespread videos and images being shared by citizens, the Iranian administration said they even arrested foreigners who had a connection with the riots. At the same time, they blocked the nation’s Internet connection hoping that this would disrupt communication between organizers.
Then, on Monday, police started using live ammunition against protesters in the Kurdish region (especially those close to Amini’s home), according to Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw. To date, three people were killed in police attacks, while dozens have been injured as they were faced with tear gas and water cannons.
It was reported that middle-class professionals, farmers, and teachers had taken the streets to call out the nation’s strict policies on women.
President Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric elected last year, supported strict enforcement of the country’s Islamic dress code. Raisi called the Interior Ministry to investigate Amini’s death and has reached out to her family to express his condolences. However, protesters are still asking him to resign.
“Iran continued a digital cat-and-mouse game with protesters, blocking internet connections in the areas of demonstrations, only to have people leave that area to get a signal—and then return to the protests.”
When it comes to oppressive governments, citizen journalism is one of the most critical aspects of fighting undemocratic authorities. So, Elon Musk said that Starlink, his internet company, would temporarily seek an exception to sanctions to allow access to their Internet connection services in Iran.
“By the time they wake up, the government will have lost control of the internet,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, executive director of NetFreedom Pioneers, a California-based technology nonprofit that primarily focuses on Iran and develops educational and freedom of information tools.
Iran has also blocked the encrypted messaging app, Telegram, but citizens are finding ways to bypass the restriction. Twitter and Facebook were also blocked in 2009.
“People are using circumvention tools to access Telegram who might not normally use them,” said Collin Anderson, a Washington, D.C.-based researcher who studies internet infrastructure and human rights. “And that is giving them access to a much wider internet.”
With Starlink’s access, this will empower more citizens to document abuse from the government and the police. Raisi is attending the UN conference in New York this week, but he has not responded yet to comments about Amini’s death and the ongoing debasement of freedom of speech in the country.