“And these times are so hard, and it’s getting even harder…” – Eminem, Lose Yourself.
Life is not good in Iran. Economic hardships are driving the average Iranian citizen to near poverty. The New York Times reports on their study of a middle-aged construction company worker named Nader. He lives in Tehran. Nader’s savings are gone, and his rent has doubled. Long ago, he was forced to cut meat out of his diet for economic reasons.
The Times interviewed him over the phone; he told them, “I can’t keep up with the rising prices, no matter how hard I run. Our demand is for the government to fix the economy, to understand that we are breaking under financial pressure.”
Nader is doing what he can. He’s taken a second job as a cab driver to make enough money to buy schoolbooks and clothes for his young son. Still, the money is slow to come.
I think many of us can relate to his plight. However, the sad reality is that I could replace the name of the city of Tehran with Tampa, which would be just as believable and relatable.
The Boiling Point
Tensions are hitting a boiling point in the Islamic Republic of 84 million citizens. Young and old alike are taking to the streets in protest in a continuation of upheavals that began in 2019, where sky-high fuel prices and a repressive fundamentalist government angered citizens to the point of violence, some setting government buildings on fire and shouting “Death to the dictator!”. A brutal crackdown on the protesters and the newly realized COVID pandemic put people back in their homes for the time being. But feelings of discontent have been bubbling under the surface for some time.
The breaking point in 2022 came with the murder of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish student by the name of Masha Amini (مهسا امینی).
This beautiful young woman is #Mehsa_Amini. She was beaten to death by morality police in #Iran. Remember her face before you ever dare to pretend hijab is a choice.#FreeFromHijab pic.twitter.com/c7gnOJsekj
— Yasmine Mohammed 🦋 ياسمين محمد (@YasMohammedxx) September 16, 2022
On September 13th, Iran’s morality police, known as the “Guidance Patrol,” arrested Mesha for wearing her hijab improperly. Apparently, she was showing a few strands of hair. According to The Atlantic, she was also wearing her pants tighter than the government cared for. After being taken into custody, she was tossed into a morality police van. Witnesses report that she was severely beaten in the van en route to a correction center. After arriving at the correction center, or police station, the young college student collapsed and fell into a coma. After two hours, she was taken by Iranian officials to Kasra hospital in Tehran, where she died on the 16th.
Masha was in town to visit her brother. He was with her during her arrest, and France 24 relays that he was told that his sister would be taken to a detention center to receive a “briefing class” and then be released an hour later. However, shortly after she arrived at the correction center, he was told his sister had a heart attack and a “brain seizure” and had to be taken to the hospital.
Her name is Masha Amini. She was only 22.
She was beaten by the Iranian Police for not wearing her hijab not properly. She died in the hospital from her wounds.
Her life mattered, her rights matter.
Let us never forget her name.
The lives of Iranian women matter. pic.twitter.com/PXLGIrZVqv
— Misan Harriman (@misanharriman) September 19, 2022
Sources from inside the hospital reported to Iran International that her lungs were filled with blood by the time she arrived at the hospital, “and it was clear she could not be revived.” The unnamed source went on to say that her condition “was such that she could not be saved nor was surgery possible because her brain tissue was seriously damaged and it was clear that the patient was not injured by a single punch and must have received many blows to her head.”
The background of this story goes back to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini declared that wearing the hijab, a head-covering worn in public by some Muslim women, was mandatory for women in the workplace and required to enter any government office. In 1983 an Iranian law was codified saying, “women who appear in public without religious hijab will be sentenced to whipping up to 74 lashes.”
In recent years, there has been some pushback by women against the hijab laws, which has provoked Iran’s morality police to clamp down on the rules in various ways ranging from verbal abuse to violent beatings. They established “re-education” centers where women breaking the rules would be reminded of the law and be forced to sign documents stating that they would comply in the future. They were then returned to their families.
In 2020, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, was quoted in Al Arabiya News that “improperly veiled women should be made to feel unsafe.” This opened the door to more state-sponsored as well as vigilante justice even though in a recent survey of the people, it was found that 72% of Iranians were against mandatory wear of the hajib and 58% believed the concept was outdated and did not believe needed to be worn at all.
Fast forward to today (literally today) and this disturbing report from BBC.
Citizens have taken to the streets in protest; women are cutting their hair and burning hajibs in public. Police are shown firing into crowds of protestors and hosing them down with water cannons. Others have died—other young women like Masha, whose only crime was not agreeing with the government.
The Critical Threats Report by The Institute for the Study of War shows that anti-regime protests continue in “at least 17 cities in 14 provinces” and that the protests are primarily centered around universities and high schools. There was a noted decrease in anti-government activity on October 5th, likely because it was a national holiday in Iran.
The government has done its best to shut down internet access, but the world can see what is happening within its borders.
This is a developing story, and SOFREP will report as new information presents itself.