Photo: A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration in Turkey (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images).
The death in detention of 22-year-old Mahsa (Zhina) Amini on September 16, 2022, following her violent arrest by Iran’s “morality” police sparked an unprecedented popular uprising. The crackdown was swift and brutal: hundreds of protesters were killed, thousands injured, and over 20,000 arrested. The first protesters were executed in December 2022 after fast-tracked trials and forced confessions.
As women and girls led the call for change in Iran, challenging decades of gender-based discrimination and violence, they became targets for arrest and retaliation. Thousands of schoolgirls were poisoned in what appeared to be a coordinated campaign to punish them for peaceful participation in protests and acts of resistance such as removing their mandatory hijabs and showing their hair in public while in school uniform.
Nearly a year later, Iran is doubling down on enforcement of discriminatory and degrading compulsory veiling laws that severely impact the human rights of women and girls and place them under mass surveillance. Since April 2023, police have sent almost one million text warning messages to women photographed unveiled in their cars, issued 133,174 text messages requiring the immobilization of vehicles for a specific duration, confiscated 2,000 cars, and referred more than 4,000 “repeat offenders” to the judiciary across the country. Countless women have been suspended or expelled from universities, barred from sitting final exams, and denied access to banking services and public transport. Hundreds of businesses have been forcibly closed for not enforcing compulsory veiling.
"They want to present themselves to the international community as moving away from violence but, in reality, they are carrying out these actions discreetly. They are truly creating fear in our existence."
A woman in Esfahan who recieved a ban for defying veiling
Not satisfied with the current law, judicial and executive authorities introduced a new draft “Bill to Support the Culture of Chastity and Hijab” targeting women and girls who appear in public or on social media without headscarves or “nakedness of a body part or wear thin or tight clothes.” An extensive list of potential penalties includes fines, confiscation of cars and phones, driving bans, deductions from salaries and benefits, and dismissal from work. More serious cases face flogging, imprisonment for up to five years and travel bans.
Iranian authorities are desperately trying to reassert their dominance and power over those who dared to stand up against decades of oppression and inequality during the ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’ Uprising. The past months have seen a surge in executions and use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression. Instead of opening criminal investigations into unlawful killings during protests, Iranian authorities have destroyed evidence and persecuted survivors and victims’ relatives who called out for truth, justice, and reparation.
As the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in detention approaches, call on Canada to support survivors and victims of human rights violations in Iran.