Iran is up in flames, and most media channels tell you that. Over the course of this month, women in the middle eastern nation have been protesting the death of Mahsa Amini. The Iranian women have been burning their hijabs constantly and chopping their hair over the brutal death of the 22-year-old girl under police detainment.
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The protests took up in the country when it became news that the girl had died in police custody. The young adult had been detained by the cops in the country after they found some fault in her hijab. She died in custody after being brutally beaten, which the police covered up by stating that she had a heart attack. But as it turns out, her family came up with a statement that Amini had no history of ever having heart disease.
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Protesting Iranian Women Have Been Burning Their Hijabs Across Iran In Light Of Police Brutality
A journalist and activist from the country, Masih Alinejad, shared a video on her Twitter account of a bunch of women who were chopping off their hair. She captioned it by saying that the women in the country had been angered by the brutal death of the young girl. Thus, Iranian women have been burning their hijabs and chopping off their hair as a sign of protest. She further mentioned that hijab had always been a sign of oppression, as women from the age of 7 would have to wear it- or they wouldn’t be able to educate themselves, or even find work. Nazanin Boniadi, a British-Iranian actor went on to tweet that anyone who would ever normalize the hijab as a cultural dress code ought to know that there was absolutely nothing cultural about it. After all, it was widely vilified by the very people upon whom it was coerced- to the point that some would willingly face persecution, torture, or even death for protesting against it.
According to major reports, the police in the country fired tear gas that dispersed a huge protest that was taking place in Sanandaj. Fars news agency, the semi-official news media, also went on to report that late September 18th saw the Iranian police arresting whole crowds of people from about 500 protestors. The media agency also claimed that the protestors had not been peaceful- they had set fire to the garbage cans lining the streets and smashed the windows of cars. The protestors were clamoring for justifiable reasoning from the police behind the death of Amini- as the earlier statement was simply not reasonable.
Burning the Hijab- A Symbol of Resistance
The main question for those who are unaware of the political situation is- why was Amini detained by the police? Incidentally, the morality police dictated that Amini’s hijab was worn too loosely. The women in the country are supposed to wear their hijabs in a way that would cover up their hair entirely. After three days of imprisonment and police brutality, the woman collapsed and died tragically. While the official statement claimed a heart attack, Amini’s family has repeatedly denounced that statement. Her death under police custody was definitely ringing evidence of the heavy-handed moral policing that went on in this Islamic Republic. Her death also signified the monstrous treatment that young women faced at the hands of this morality police.
The next question would be why are women cutting their hair as a sign of protest? According to the country’s moral policing, hair has always been a sign of beauty that is mandatorily covered in this country. So for most women who have been living under this oppressive regime, cutting their hair is quite poignant. Waheed Siddiqi, a Persian literary critic based in the United States currently, mentioned that the religious leaders in the country had made this veil absolutely necessary for girls and women to wear. Their hair was considered to be the epitome of dignity and honor. But the action of the activists in light of police brutality has simply done away with the whole concept of any form of forceful imposition.
This has led to vast hordes of women taking to the streets where they have been burning the hijabs and throwing them on the ground, or cutting off their hair. Needless to say, this has been seen as their insignia for resistance ever since the protests began- and individuals all over the world have been in support of the actions of the women activists. In fact, the support has been so vociferous that #HairForFreedom has been trending on social media, with politicians, celebrities, and campaigners joining in in large groups. A video was recently posted on Instagram where over 50 high-profile actors and musicians in France cut their hair off in solidarity. This group also included big stalwarts like Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert, Angele, Isabelle Adjani, and Juliette Binoche. The video was captioned by Binoche as “for freedom.”
From Celebrities to Politicians- The Protests Have Gained Worldwide Recognition
The movement also attracted the attention of several politicians. Abir Al-Sahlani, the MEP in Sweden, cut her hair at the European Parliament held in Strasbourg. The politico cut her hair off before her fellow MEPs and stated that until the Middle Eastern country was free, the fury that the women had would simply be overpowering their oppressors. She concluded her speech by saying, “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’- which is Kurdish for “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
On October 6th, Elika Ashoori also cut her hair on ITV’s Lorraine, which was watched live by the audience. For those unaware. Ashoori is the daughter of Anoosheh Ashoori, who had been incarcerated and subsequently released from an Iranian prison in March. Elika stated that she had on herself a pair of scissors that she would use to show her solidarity towards the people in Iran. She would cut her hair off to highlight the bravery of the people in the country- who were braving certain persecution and death every day by protesting the regime. Ashoori also called for world governments to impose multiple sanctions on the country, and stop trading with it.
Elika Ashoori also believes that people have become desensitized to the pain and suffering that people in the Middle East go through. Speaking at Lorraine, she commented that people should not be normalizing the pain that is quite visible for everyone to see. Rather, people all over the world need to be angry at what is happening to humanity. They also need to open their eyes and realize that what is happening to the women in Iran right now could easily happen in their own country. Along with politicians and other women celebrities, even men have decided to participate in solidarity. Chan Handpan, a TikTok user from France, recently filmed a video of himself cutting his hair which he claimed to be in solidarity with Iranian women.
In the midst of all the protests, the Guidance Patrol- or the morality police has been levying severe crackdowns on the citizens. Wherever Iranian women have been burning their hijabs on the streets, the Police have been mercilessly persecuting or executing people that they think to be rebellious. Several Human Rights organizations have claimed that hundreds have died already from police brutality. On October 4th, a 16-year-old girl Nika Shakrami was killed. While the police stated that she had fallen from the roof, many onlookers and a post-mortem report claimed that she had been subjected to blunt force trauma.