In the footage, a sizable crowd applauds as a woman lifts a pair of scissors to her hair while showing no sign of wearing a headscarf. She chops off her ponytail and raises her fist in the air as the sea of people, many of whom are guys, yell. It was a potent display of defiance on Tuesday night in Kerman, Iran, where women are required to wear hijabs in public. It was just one of many demonstrations that have been held across the nation in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who passed away last week while being held by the police.
Videos of demonstrations from dozens of towns and cities, including the capital Tehran and more staunchly conservative strongholds like Mashad, emerged on Tuesday night as thousands of people went to the streets.
One group of demonstrators can be seen chanting, “Women, life, freedom,” while others are seen building bonfires, fighting with police, taking off and burning their headscarves, tearing down pictures of the nation’s Supreme Leader, and yelling, “Death to the tyrant.”
In one video from Tehran, young protestors can be heard saying, “We are the children of war,” as they march around a bonfire on the street at night. Fight on, and we’ll return the favour.
There have also been protests in almost every provincial town in Iran’s Kurdish territory, including Kermanshah and Hamedan.
The breadth, intensity, and uncommon feminist nature of the rallies are notable; the last demonstrations of this size were three years ago after the government raised gas prices in 2019.
Witnesses tell CNN that the rallies on Tuesday night seem to be “flash protests,” in which groups organise and break up swiftly to avoid clashes with Iranian security forces in the wake of the previous week’s rising violence.
Near Iran’s Enghelab (“Revolution”) Square, which has historically served as a rallying point for rallies, on the western side of Tehran University, a source claimed that at least one instance of a heavy-handed police response occurred on Tuesday.
According to an eyewitness, “two young men were hit and beaten up by plainclothes police and anti-riot police, then dragged to the van in front of (the) subway entrance gate.” A wounded girl who was lying on the sidewalk was also taken to the hospital, and five other people were detained on the north side of Enghelab Square.
According to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, an organisation established in Norway that keeps track of human rights abuses in Iran, at least five protestors have been shot and killed during rallies in the Kurdish region over the past several days.
Over the weekend, additional 75 injuries were reported in other cities.
After Amini, who was stopped and imprisoned by Iran’s morality police last Tuesday, died, demonstrations broke out.
According to Iranian officials, Amini passed away last Friday after having a “heart attack” and going into a coma after being arrested.
However, according to Emtedad news, a pro-reform media organisation in Iran that claimed to have spoken to Amini’s father, her family indicated she did not have a pre-existing cardiac issue.
Amini seemed to collapse at a “re-education” centre where she was transferred to receive “advice” on her wardrobe, according to edited security camera footage posted by Iran’s official media.
The morality police of Iran are charged with upholding the harsh social regulations of the Islamic Republic, particularly its dress code that requires women to cover their heads with a headscarf, or hijab, in public.
According to Iran’s semi-official Nour News agency, a Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s assistant promised Amini’s family on Monday that there would be a “thorough probe” into her passing.
According to Nour, Abdolreza Pourzahabi, Khamenei’s envoy in the Kurdish region of Iran, claimed that the Supreme Leader “is sorrowful” and that the family’s suffering “is his sadness too.”
The family should demonstrate “good will to assist bring back peace in society,” he continued.
Also on Monday, Hossein Rahimi, the commander of the Greater Tehran Police, refuted “false claims” against the Iranian police, claiming they had “done everything” to keep Amini alive.
He continued by saying that Amini had not suffered any bodily harm while or after being brought into custody and he described her passing as “unfortunate.”
The internet monitoring service Netblocks has recorded internet interruptions since Amini’s passing, a strategy Iran has previously employed to stop the spread of protests.