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Explained: Why Iranian women are chopping off hair, burning hijab

Mahsa Amini's death has triggered anger against the 'morality police' in Iran. Over the weekend, hundreds of Iranian women staged protest rallies in the capital Tehran. Protests were also witnessed during Amini's funeral in her hometown Saqez in the Kurdistan region.

Mahsa Amini death protest Iranian women are chopping off hair and burning hijab
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First Published Sep 19, 2022, 12:14 PM IST

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been taken into custody by the morality police in Iran for allegedly not wearing a proper headscarf, triggered a spate of anti-Hijab and anti-moral policing protests across Iran and abroad.

Amini had slipped into a coma after being brutally thrashed by the police while in detention. Amini and her brother Kiaresh had come to Tehran on September 14 from the western Iranian province of Kurdistan to meet relatives. The Guidance Patrol accosted them as they entered the Haqqani metro station in Tehran. 

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They detained Amini for not wearing the headscarf as prescribed by the country's strict law. Her father said that the police had said that she would be sent back after an awareness class, but later they got information that Amini had been admitted to the hospital.

Amini's brother claimed that authorities initially refused to let him meet Amini when she was in detention. According to reports, later, an ambulance arrived at the Vozara detention centre to shift someone to the hospital. When Amini's bother enquired as to who was being taken in the ambulance, the police reportedly lied, stating that one of their personnel had been injured. However, one of the girls who was in detention along with Amini told her brother that the latter had collapsed after being assaulted by the police.

Amini's brother was not allowed to meet her in the hospital, but he did manage to catch a glimpse of her. Amini's face was swollen, and her legs were bruised. She died two days later. The incident raised major question marks about women's rights in Iran. 

Tehran University students marched to protest the 'murder' of Amini by the Guidance Patrol. The Tehran Police Department media centre has refuted claims that Amini was assaulted. The police said she was transferred to one of the police departments in Tehran for 'justification and education' about the hijab when she 'suddenly suffered a heart problem'. The family, however, has rubbished the police claim and said that she was medically fit and healthy.

To note, women must cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes under Iran's shariah. Punishment for violating the law ranges from public rebuke to fines and arrest. On July 5, President Ebrahim Raisi enforced the hijab law that saw a new wave of restrictions on how Iranian women could dress. Offenders face public rebuke, fines or arrest.

Amini's death has triggered anger against the 'morality police'. Over the weekend, hundreds of Iranian women staged protest rallies in the capital Tehran. Protests were also witnessed during Amini's funeral in her hometown Saqez in the Kurdistan region. Several women came out in defiance against the Iranian regime by removing their headscarves and waving them in the air in protests over Amini's police custody death. Police brutally cracked down upon the protests and fired tear gas shells to disperse protesters.

Many women even posted videos showing them chopping off their hair and shedding the hijab. Take a look:

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