Home / News / World /  Watch: Women in Iran chop off hair, burn hijab in protest against ‘moral police'. All you need to know

Iran reels from violent protests ignited by the 22 year old woman's death who slipped into a coma after her arrest by its 'morality police'. The police unit -- responsible for enforcing Iran's strict dress code for women, notably the wearing of a headscarf in public -- had already faced growing criticism in recent months over its excessive use of force.

The death of Mahsa Amini, 22, has reignited calls to rein in the 'moral police's' actions against women suspected of violating the dress code, in effect since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Between 8 to 10 million Kurds live in Iran. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have put down unrest in the country’s Kurdish areas for decades, and the hardline judiciary has sentenced many activists to long jail terms or death.

Hijab rules in Iran

Walking unveiled or without wearing a hijab in Iran is a punishable crime under the Islamic Hijab Rules. Since the country's 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian law requires all women, regardless of nationality or religious belief, to wear a hijab that covers the head and neck while concealing the hair.

But many have pushed the boundaries over the past two decades by allowing their head coverings to slide back and reveal more hair. 

Mahsa Amini

Mahsa Amini, 22, fell into a coma and died following her arrest in Tehran last week by the morality police, sparking demonstrations against the authorities across the country by Iranians enraged by the treatment of women by security forces.

On September 13, 2022, a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini was detained by Iranian morality police when she was going to the country’s capital city, Tehran. As soon as she entered Haqqani Metro station with her family for flouting the country’s strict religious dress code. According to eyewitnesses, she was beaten up and then took her to the notorious Vozara detention centre.

Her condition was very serious when she was at the hospital at midnight, the doctors said that her level of consciousness was at 3. According to Mahsa’s brother, when they reached the detention centre, they asked to be let in, to meet Mahsa, but the door continued to remain shut. When some of the detained girls came out, they were screaming that someone has been killed. 

The brother recounted that the police fired tear gas shells and batoncharged the girls and all those gathered there. He said that he was not allowed to film his sister but she was bruised and swollen, probably from the beating.

On 16 September, Mahsa was reported to be dead at the hospital.

Who are moral police in Iran?

Islamic religious police or morality police as known in Iran, are authorised Islamic vice squad police organisations that protect public morals and religious adherence on behalf of national or regional authorities in accordance with their interpretation of the sharia.

The morality police -- responsible for enforcing Iran's strict dress code for women, notably the wearing of a headscarf in public -- had already faced growing criticism in recent months over its excessive use of force.

At the end of July, the morality police had banned women from wearing coats that do not cover the knees, tight pants and ripped jeans, as well as brightly coloured outfits.

Police reaction on Amini's death

Police said at the weekend Amini fell ill as she waited with other detained women. But Amini's father told pro-reform Emtedad news website on Sunday that his daughter was fit and had no health problems. Police said that she was being schooled over the “justification and education" about the hijab when she “suddenly suffered a heart problem".

"This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents," Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi said in a statement reported by the Fars news agency.

"This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents," Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi said in a statement reported by the Fars news agency.

He said Amini suffered no mistreatment, denying claims aired on social media against the morality police, who enforce strict rules requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose fitting clothes.

"Cowardly accusations have been levelled against the Iranian police. We will wait until the day of judgment but we cannot stop doing security work," Rahimi said, adding that the morality police was "doing positive work".

He said he could not comment on the cause of death because this was a medical rather than a security issue. Rahimi on Monday said that the woman had violated the dress code, and that his colleagues had asked her relatives to bring her "decent clothes".

It was an “improper hijab" the police said, which means, she was wearing it but had not fully covered her hair with it.

Women protest in Iran

Women in Iran have been protesting in various parts of the nation. They have been taking out marches, called for strike. The protest being led by women has seen them remove their hijabs in public, which could get them arrested. they have also taken the help of TikTok to post videos of them chopping off their hair in order to protest.

At the funeral of Mahsa Amini's in her hometown of Saqqez, Kurdistan province, women took off their headscarves or Hijab in protest against the Iran's forced hijab law. Chants of  ‘death to the dictator’ roared in the air, according to BBC reports.

The protests have intensified where in several women have posted videos and images of them cutting their hair off or taking off their hijab in order to portest the stringent 

Several disturbing videos have emerged that show how brutally ‘moral police ’ detains and treats the women who they feel did not wear a ‘proper hijab’.

The death has reignited calls to rein in morality police actions against women suspected of violating the dress code, in effect since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Filmmakers, artists, athletes and political and religious figures have taken to social media to express their anger over the death, both inside and outside the country.

President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultra-conservative former judiciary chief who came to power last year, has ordered an inquiry into Amini's death.

“Do you really want to know how Iranian morality police killed Mahsa Amini 22 year old woman? Watch this video and do not allow anyone to normalize compulsory hijab and morality police. The Handmaid's Tale by @MargaretAtwood is not a fiction for us Iranian women. It’s a reality."

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