Iranians Commemorate Anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s Death in Custody
Iranians both within the country and abroad came together on Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. The event was accompanied by concerns of a renewed crackdown by Iranian authorities to prevent any resurgence of the protests that swept through major cities last year.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died a few days after being arrested by religious police for allegedly violating the strict dress code for women that has been in place since the 1979 revolution. While her family claims she died from a blow to the head, Iranian authorities dispute this.
Amini’s death sparked widespread anger, leading to weeks of protests where women boldly removed their mandatory headscarves in defiance of the Islamic republic’s government under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, the protests eventually lost momentum due to a harsh crackdown by security forces, resulting in the deaths of 551 protesters and the arrest of over 22,000 individuals, according to human rights organizations.
The Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown in the lead-up to the anniversary, putting pressure on the families of those killed in the protests to prevent them from speaking out. Human Rights Watch reported that family members of at least 36 victims have been interrogated, arrested, prosecuted, or sentenced to prison in the past month.
The two journalists who played a significant role in publicizing Amini’s case, Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, have been imprisoned for nearly a year. Another reporter, Nazila Maroufian, who interviewed Amini’s father, has also faced repeated arrests.
Amjad Amini, Mahsa’s father, plans to hold a commemoration for his daughter in their hometown of Saqez in western Iran. However, he has faced scrutiny from intelligence officials after announcing his intentions. While he was not arrested, one of Amini’s uncles was detained earlier this month. Additional security forces have been deployed to Saqez and other towns in western Iran to prevent any potential unrest.
Despite the crackdown, some women continue to defy the dress code and walk in public without headscarves, particularly in wealthier and traditionally liberal areas of north Tehran. However, the conservative-dominated parliament is currently considering a draft law that would impose stricter penalties for non-compliance.
Sara Hossain, the chair of the UN fact-finding mission established to investigate the crackdown, stated, “The Islamic republic is doubling down on repression and reprisals against its citizens and seeking to introduce new and more draconian laws that severely restrict further the rights of women and girls.”
Under the slogan “Say her name!,” Iranian emigrants are expected to hold commemorative rallies, with large demonstrations anticipated in Paris and Toronto. Amnesty International has accused Iran’s authorities of committing numerous crimes under international law and expressed disappointment that no officials have been investigated for Amini’s death or the crackdown.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, emphasized the need for countries worldwide to initiate criminal investigations into the crimes committed by Iranian authorities. She stated, “The anniversary offers a stark reminder for countries around the world of the need to initiate criminal investigations into the heinous crimes committed by the Iranian authorities under universal jurisdiction.”
As Iranians come together to remember Mahsa Amini and protest against the government’s actions, it is crucial for the international community to support their cause and hold Iranian authorities accountable for their actions. The fight for justice and human rights continues, and it is essential to stand in solidarity with those who seek freedom and equality.