Why are women in Iran burning their hijabs and cutting their hair?

Why are women in Iran burning their hijabs and cutting their hair?
Protests in Iran and on social media over Mahsa Amini’s death
Al Jazeera

Women have turned to social media to protest the death of Mahsa Amini last week, with videos of themselves cutting their hair and burning their hijabs.

The wave of protests comes as a 22-year-old woman died after being detained by Iran's so-called morality police.

What happened to Mahsa Amini?

On 13 September 2022, Mahsa Amini (also known as Jina or Zhina) was visiting family in Tehran.

She was at the entry of Haqqani Highway with her brother Kiaresh Amini when Iran's Gasht-e Ershad ("Guidance Patrol") arrested her and transferred her to the "Moral Security" agency for allegedly wearing an inappropriate hijab.

Her brother was informed that Amini would be taken to a detention centre to attend a "briefing class" and released shortly afterwards.

Sadly, Amini never made it out.

Kasra Hospital announced the death of Amini on Friday after being in a coma for three days. In a since-deleted Instagram post, the hospital claimed the 22-year-old was brain dead on arrival.

"Resuscitation was performed on the patient, the heartbeat returned and the patient was admitted to the intensive care unit," they originally wrote. "Unfortunately, after 48 hours on Friday, the patient suffered a cardiac arrest again, due to brain death. Despite the efforts of the medical team, they failed to revive her and the patient died."

Witnesses claim the patrol beat her in the van.

How are Iranian officials explaining her death?

Officials in Iran had issued a statement claiming Amini died of a heart attack at the detention centre. However, her family disputed the claim, saying Amini was in perfect health when she was detained.

Tehran’s police chief Hossein Rahimi has denied the allegations and said claims that Amini was mistreated in any way are "completely false".

What has the reaction been?

Amini's death has sparked global outrage, with protests reported in Tehran, Qazvin, Arak, Mashhad, and several other cities. Many women were seen cutting their hair, burning their hijabs and chanting "Women, life, freedom" and "Death to the dictator" (referring to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader).

Since the protests began, five people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

Women unable to participate in the protests have turned to TikTok to express their outrage at Amini’s death, with the hashtag #mahsaamini receiving more than 66m views at the time of writing.


For #mahsaamini Iranian women who are burning their ⁦‪#hijab‬⁩ and cutting off their hair in protest against the death of a 22-year-old woman. ⁦‪#Iran‬⁩ ‎⁦‪#mahsa_amini ‬⁩ ‎⁧‫#مهسا_امینی ‬⁩


#iranianlivesmatter #iran #mahsaamini #headshaving

Mahsa Amini is a 22-year-old Iranian girl who was killed by the guidance patrol (police for compulsory hijab) due to a severe beating.Please bring the voice of Iranian people to the world #مهسا_امینی #mahsa_amini #mahsaamini

The head of the morality police was reportedly suspended following the deaths.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International responded to the incident: "The circumstances leading to the suspicious death in custody of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa Amini, which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, must be criminally investigated.

"The so-called ‘morality police’ in Tehran arbitrarily arrested her three days before her death while enforcing the country’s abusive, degrading and discriminatory forced veiling laws. All agents and officials responsible must face justice."

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