Mahsa Amini: what is happening in Iran, why are protests taking place - Iran’s youth movement explained

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At least 41 people have died amid unrest in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the country’s morality police

Deadly protests have broken out in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Unrest has spread throughout the country, with at least 41 people dying amid demonstrations. It comes after Ms Amini was arrested by Iranian morality police and died in custody.

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The situation has sparked a conversation about women’s freedoms in the country and the anti-revolution movement. The youth of the country has also mobilised in joining the protests, despite the dangerous nature of them.

Here’s everything we know about what is going on in Iran.

Protests and demonstration are ongoing in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini (Credit: Getty Images)Protests and demonstration are ongoing in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini (Credit: Getty Images)
Protests and demonstration are ongoing in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

What is happening in Iran?

Protests broke out on the streets of Iran following the death of Ms Amini on 16 September. Demonstrators took to the streets in the hours after her death.

They first kicked off at the hospital Ms Amini died at. They then spread to cities and regions throughout the country including in Ms Amini’s home of Kurdistan.

The demonstrations have been met with heavy presence from Iranian security forces, with protests quickly turning deadly. At least 41 people have died in the unrest so far, with forces using gas and live rounds to deter demonstrators.

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Amid the unrest, access to Meta social media platforms Instagram and Whatsapp have been restricted according to internet monitoring group NetBlocks. Additionally, access is also said to have been locked periodically for Telegram, YouTube and TikTok as news of the protests spread to young people throughout the country.

Why are the protests happening?

Ms Amini was arrested on 13 September 2022 by the Iranian morality police after she was alleged to have breached strict hijab laws by wearing an “improper hijab”. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, women have been required by law to wear a hijab and loose fitting clothing in public, with Ms Amini allegedly wearing her hijab too far back on her head.

She was arrested, with police telling her brother that she would be attending a “briefing class” at a detention centre before being released the same day. However, he was soon informed that his sister had suffered a heart attack and brain seizure.

Ms Amini’s family have since alleged that the 22-year-old was beaten by police, as witnessed by other detainees in the vehicle. She was transferred to Kasra Hospital in Tehran, were she lay in a coma-state before dying in intensive care on 16 September.

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A protester in Brussels holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini. (Credit: Getty Images)A protester in Brussels holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini. (Credit: Getty Images)
A protester in Brussels holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini. (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Following her death, activists took to the streets to protest the Iranian government’s treatment of women and the lack of freedom for women in the country. The hashtag #MahsaAmini began trending on Twitter, with Iranian women cutting their hair in opposition to the strict laws as well as publicly burning their hijabs.

Iranian leader Ali Khamenei was quoted previously as saying "improperly veiled women should be made to feel unsafe", with clerics and imams backing the 83-year-old Ayatollah.

Demonstrations have since spread outside the country. Activists in Europe, the Americas and Asia have protested outside embassies.

Who is supporting the protests in Iran?

Although not exclusively, young people in Iran have come out in support of the protests in large numbers despite the resulting violence. News spread of the demonstrations and the death of Ms Amini on social media, with many apps now inaccessible to Iranian residents.

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Others have also urged families to not encourage their children into taking part in the protests. Kermanshah prosecutor Shahram Karami, said: “We urge families in Kermanshah to prevent their youth from taking part in these gatherings. They emotionally get into these gatherings but the anti-revolution forces seek to create death cases [to fan the crisis].”

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