Iran protest
This videograb dated September 22, 2022 shows Iranian demonstrators setting fire to a trash bin in the capital Tehran Image Credit: AFP

In various societies of the world, women seem to suffer on the receiving edge of some archaic traditions or mores imposed on them. And nowhere are such traditions more ominous than those backed by the religious establishments of the country and enforced by their often feared ‘religious police’.

One’s religious beliefs is a personal affair, between you and Almighty God. To have someone try to force their interpretations against your will by standing on a ‘holier than thou’ pedestal, becomes force-fed and imposing.

And slowly around the world, such a rejection is taking place, undoubtedly aided by a quick-wired society, where news travels fast and instantaneous. Unfortunately, along the way there are victims. Victims of an unnecessary tragedy often rob away their lives under the unstoppable might of persecution.

No underlining health conditions

Such was the case a few days ago when a youthful 22-year-old woman in Iran, Mahsa Amini, died under mysterious circumstances in a hospital after spending three days in a coma following her arrest in Tehran by Iran’s feared police.

On Sept. 13, Amini was arrested by a morality police (Gasht-e-Ershad) patrol in a Tehran metro station, allegedly for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Her crime? A little bit of hair had poked through from under her headscarf. Amini, who had previously no known underlining health conditions was feared to have suffered while in detention, ultimately leading to her death.

Masha Amini
A person places a flower in front of a portrait of Masha Amini during a protest rally in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Image Credit: AP

The police said Amini had suffered a heart attack after being taken to the station to be ‘educated’. Her relatives have flatly denied she suffered any heart condition.

Apparently, the morality police saw her transgression as a sign of defiance to a mandatory dress code imposed on all women in Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The code calls upon all women to wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothing. In many reported instances, the religious police go overboard in ensuring that the state edict was strictly followed.

Following the news that she had passed away, people began demonstrating en masse against this mindless violation of human life. They took to the streets across the country in protest against the circumstances surrounding Amini’s unfortunate death.

The flood of simmering anger has also spilled over onto social media with many clips of defiance doing the rounds. The young were just plain fed up with this strict muzzling into their own private lives by clerics who wandered around in their midst with a watchful eye.

Hassasing women

Iranian security forces responded to the demonstrations in the capital of the Kurdistan and other parts, leading to several people being killed or injured. Iran says 450 protesters arrested in northern province. At least 41 people have died since the unrest began

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed alarm at the ‘death in custody of Mahsa Amini and the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests,’ and demanded that ‘the authorities must stop targeting, harassing and detaining women’

The United States has also stepped in, demanding accountability for Amini’s death. “Mahsa Amini’s death after injuries sustained while in police custody for wearing an ‘improper’ hijab is an appalling and egregious affront to human rights,” stated a White House spokesperson.

Amini has gone forever and I doubt if the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena