Iranian women cut off their hair in protest after the death of Mahsa Amini

Iranian women are protesting the death of one of their own, Mahsa Amini.

Amini, a 22-year-old, died on Friday, three days after being arrested by Iran’s morality police. These police officers have all the powers of a law enforcement agency and are responsible for enforcing the country’s strict dress code mandates for women, including wearing a hijab in public to cover one’s hair and neck.

Amini was taken to the Vozara Street Detention Center on Tuesday to be taught hijab, Tehran police said, as of CNN. But while in custody, Amini collapsed and was taken to hospital, where she later died. Local police claimed she suffered a heart attack, while her family said she had no previous heart conditions, and witnesses accused officers of beating her, per BBC.

During a press conference on Monday, Greater Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi rejected claims that Iranian police had harmed Amini in any way, saying they had “done everything” to keep her alive. He called her death “unfortunate”.

Since Amini’s death, protests have erupted across Iran, with women rising up against the morality police by cutting off their hair, removing and even burning their hijabs in public and dressing as men to fight the officers.

Videos on social media show women running through the streets of Tehran, as well as more conservative cities such as Mashhad and Kermanshah, in flash protests, chanting: “Women, life, freedom.”

Some even set fire to and destroy posters with images of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Meanwhile, internet monitoring website Grid blocks has documented internet outages in the country since Friday – a tactic the local government has used in the past to minimize the spread of protests.

Amini’s death comes amid growing controversy and backlash over the dress code for women – which is enforced from the age of nine and applies to people of all nationalities and religions living in the country, not just Iranian Muslims.

This began long before the establishment of the current Islamic Republic. In 1936, Reza Shah, a ruler who supported Western laws and ideals, tried to modernize the country by banning the wearing of veils and headscarves, but many women resisted. Then, in 1979, the succeeding Islamic regime enforced the use of the hijab, and the rule was written into law in 1983, after which the morality police was founded.

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