Iranian women are protesting the death of one of their own, Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old, died on Friday, three days after being arrested by Iran’s morality police. These police officers have all the powers of a law enforcement agency and are in charge of enforcing the country’s strict dress code mandates for women, including wearing a hijab in public to cover one’s hair and neck.
Amini was taken to the Vozara Street Detention Center Tuesday to be educated about the hijab, Tehran Police said, per CNN. But while in custody, Amini collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where she later died. Local police claimed she suffered a heart attack, while her family said she had no prior heart conditions and witnesses accused officers of beating her, per the BBC.
During a news conference on Monday, Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi denied claims that Iranian police harmed Amini in any way, and said they had “done everything” to keep her alive. He called her death “unfortunate.”
Since Amini’s death, protests have broken out across Iran, with women standing up against the morality police by chopping off their hair, removing and even burning their hijabs in public, and dressing up as men to fight the officers.
Videos on social media show women running through the streets of Tehran, as well as more conservative cities, like Mashhad and Kermanshah, putting on flash protests and shouting, “Women, life, freedom.”
Some are even setting fires and destroying posters with images of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Meanwhile, internet monitoring website Netblocks has documented internet outages in the country since Friday—a tactic the local government has previously used to minimize the spread of protests.
Amini’s death comes amid growing controversy and pushback over the dress code for women—which is enforced since they turn nine years old and applies to people of all nationalities and religions living in the country, not just Iranian Muslims.
This began long before the establishment of the current Islamic Republic. In 1936, Reza Shah, a ruler who supported Western laws and ideals, attempted to modernize the country by banning the wearing of veils and headscarves, but many women resisted. Then, in 1979, the Islamic regime that followed enforced the wearing of the hjiab, and the rule was written into law in 1983, after which the morality police force was founded.