Original article “Masha, Hadith, Ghazale, Hanane: Killed in Iran” from: The Independent (01/10/2022).
Mansha Amini, the 22-year-old girl beaten by the Gasht-e-Ershad — the Moral Police — for “inappropriately” carrying the hijab during a trip with her family to Tehran, did not die: she was beaten to death. While in a coma, she suffered a stroke and a cardiac arrest. Mansha Amini had a whole life ahead of her. Today, she lives in the rage that has mobilised Iranian women to rise up against a regime that, for 43 years, has tried to subject them to darkness, exploitation, oppression and exclusion.
The magnitude of the protests led by women who claim for their rights is unprecedented, not to mention their resistance despite the repression of the authorities. According to independent organisations, about 83 people were reportedly killed with ammunition fired at close range. At least 1,200 more people— journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders — have been detained arbitrarily. Internet shutdowns have been ongoing, as in previous protests, endorsed by the law on User Protection ratified by Parliament in February of this year.
The progressive codification of the use of hijab as mandatory since 1979 is only the tip of the iceberg of a corollary of violations of women’s rights that continues to grow since Ebrahim Raisi came into power in 2021. Violence against women is trivialised, legitimised. The so-called gender-based violence law, recently introduced, is riddled with retrograde norms that do not consider marriage violence as such. Moreover, its approach is based on the premise of making up with the aggressors. A “young population and family protection” law was passed in November 2021 that restricts sexual and reproductive rights and blocks access to abortion. In Iran, there are still executions based on honor, and the legal age for marriage remains at 13 years. Marriages at an early age have increased a 10.5 % in 2021.
The imposition of hijab is only the tip of the iceberg of the constant attacks to the dignity of women in Iran. Women have channeled their protests into a social movement that exceeds their demands and already speaks of the necessary fall of the dictatorship.
In 2009, during the protests related to elections, Neda Agha-Soltan, a 27 years old philosophy student, became “Iran’s voice” after being killed in cold blood at the hands of a paramilitary Basij. Now, Mansha Amini is the symbol, but there are many other women who have suffered similar brutalities. Young Hadith Najafi, a participant in these weeks’ protests, was shot dead. The same happened with Ghazale Chelavi, Hanane Kia, Mahsa Mogoi.
Mansha Amini and Neda Agha-Soltan were not openly confronting the regime. They were coexisting, as women, in the public space. A space in which violence against them has been legitimised and promoted by the authorities.
Just weeks before Mansha’s arrest on 3 September, Shelir Rasouli, 36 years old and with two children, died after jumping off a second floor trying to escape her neighbor from raping her at gunpoint.
On September 1, the Urumieh Islamic Revolution Tribunal sentenced Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Chawdar to death. They tried to help LGBTI people who sought to leave Iran and they were accused of trafficking because of this. Iranian norms explicitly prohibit homosexuality under death penalty.
Moreover, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and human rights defender particularly active in cases related to hijab impositions, winner of the Sakharov Prize, was sentenced to 138 lashes and 38 years in prison in 2018.
How many lives will be taken for the international community to commit? What is the price that we are willing to pay for diplomacy with the Iranian regime?
And in the meantime, impunity is spreading. We need to make more efforts at international level to call for access for victims and their families to reparation and justice through independent investigations and genuine accountability that has not existed following the protests of 2019, July 2021 or May of this year.
In response to the excessive use of force following the 2019 uprisings, the European Union imposed individual sanctions on senior regime officials and on the prisons of Evin, Fashafouyeh and Rajee Shahr, converted into centres of repression and torture. The walls of these prisons continue to lock up hundreds of human rights defenders today. The sanctions list was then headed by Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and member of the National Security Council, responsible for orders to use lethal force against protesters.
The Guardian Corps is made up of 190,000 men who oversee the Moral Police, which crushes the rights of Iranian women. Renewing, updating and extending our sanctions targeting those responsible for the repression is an urgent imperative for the EU. We will propose this in the resolution and debate that we have requested as a matter of urgency at the next plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The example of Mansha, Hadith, Ghazale, Hanane and so many others leaves the international community in evidence. The savage violence women suffer is unbearable. It’s time to live up to it. It is time to accompany the women who risk their lives and walk determinedly towards the conquest of their future, and the democratic and free future of all Iranians.
Photography: Participants in a demonstration to honor those killed in Iran, in Berlin. EFE