The protests started small outside Tehran’s hospital after a 22-year-old Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, died after being arrested by “morality police” who claimed Amini had violated the country’s dress code for women. The protests began on Friday with the Kurdish minority from the northwestern city of Saqez, but as more videos circulated online, others took to the streets to show their disappointment and anger.
Happy Birthday #Mahsa_Amini , the daughter of Iran. you are our angel You are the symbol of freedom. You will always be in our hearts, souls and spirits until our last breath.
تولدت مبارک دختر ایران، #مهسا_امینی#internetcutoff pic.twitter.com/iDEVxQskNm
— mrjk (@jungkook_mah) 09/22/2022
Amini’s family told reporters that Iran’s Morality Police arrested her on September 13. They accused her of improperly wearing her hijab and then immediately took her to a police station in a van. Amini fell into a coma while incarcerated with other women.
Amini’s family now accuses police of abusing her while in custody and rushing her while she “staged her funeral in Saqez…without sharing the results of an autopsy.” Iranian police denied those allegations, saying it was a heart problem that caused her death. However, Amini’s family said she had no history of heart problems.
As of this writing, protests chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are still taking place in Iran. Here are some of the videos recorded by citizens.
Incredible video of protesters in #Iran Destruction of security vehicles. We have never seen this type of imagery at previous protests. The Iranian people’s quest for accountability remains the mullahcracy’s greatest fear of terror. #Mahsa_Amini pic.twitter.com/Clf4PNsVHL
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) September 21, 2022
The streets look like war-ravaged areas.
— 🏴 Rhara 🏴 (@iam_rhara) 09/22/2022
Iran’s “moral” police continue to arrest women.
— Meleğim 🧚♀️ Border (@melegimsta) 09/22/2022
On the fifth day of unrest in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, protesters in central Kerman directly confront riot police and plainclothes officers, preventing them from beating and arresting other protesters.pic.twitter.com/8KfgjRvTYz
— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) September 21, 2022
Photos obtained from @AFP outside Iran shows Iranian demonstrators protesting in Tehran September 21 in support of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by morality police.
Police used tear gas and made arrests to disperse protesters, according to the official IRNA news agency pic.twitter.com/hozkxTzlFP
— AFP news agency (@AFP) 09/22/2022
Women cut their hair and burn hijabs.
— Ahmad Batebi (@radiojibi) 09/22/2022
Unprecedented scenes in Iran: A woman sits on a supply box and cuts her hair in the main square in Kerman to protest the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the vice squad. People clap their hands and sing “Death to the Dictator”. #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/2oyuKV80Ac
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) September 20, 2022
Starlink steps in to fight censorship
Due to the widespread videos and images shared by citizens, the Iranian government said it has even arrested foreigners who had links to the unrest. At the same time, they blocked the country’s internet connection in the hope that this would disrupt communication between the organizers.
Then, on Monday, police began using live ammunition against protesters in the Kurdish region (particularly those near Amini’s home), according to Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw. So far, three people have been killed in police attacks, while dozens have been injured when faced with tear gas and water cannons.
It was reported that middle-class professionals, farmers and teachers had taken to the streets to call for the nation’s tough women’s policy.
President Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric elected last year, supported the country’s strict enforcement of the Islamic dress code. Raisi called the Interior Ministry to investigate Amini’s death and has reached out to her family to express his condolences. However, protesters are still calling for his resignation.
“Iran continued a digital game of cat and mouse with protesters, blocking internet connections in the demonstration areas just to get people to leave that area to get a signal – and then return to the protests.”
When it comes to repressive governments, citizen journalism is one of the most critical aspects of fighting undemocratic authorities. For example, Elon Musk said that Starlink, his internet company, would request a temporary exemption from sanctions to allow access to its internet connection services in Iran.
“By the time they wake up, the government will have lost control of the internet,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, executive director of NetFreedom Pioneers, a California-based nonprofit technology organization focused primarily on Iran that develops tools for education and freedom of information.
Iran has also blocked encrypted messaging app Telegram, but citizens are finding ways to circumvent the restriction. Twitter and Facebook were also blocked in 2009.
“People use bypass tools to access Telegram that they don’t normally use,” said Collin Anderson, a Washington, DC-based researcher specializing in internet infrastructure and human rights. “And that gives them access to a much broader internet.”
With Starlink access, more citizens will be able to document government and police abuse. Raisi is attending the UN conference in New York this week, but he has not yet responded to comments on Amini’s death and the ongoing interference with freedom of expression in the country.