One Year Since Mahsa Amini's Death; Iranian Patriarchy Burns Slowly

One year back, on September 15, 22-year-old Mahsa 'Jina' Amini died in police custody. Today, we celebrate the resilience of women in Iran who continue to fight for their freedom and rights.

Nikita Gupta
15 Sep 2023 Updated On Sep 16, 2023 18:11 IST
mahsa amini.jpeg

Today marks the first death anniversary of Mahsa Amini. Image Credits: X/@MiddleEastEye

One year back, on September 15, 22-year-old Mahsa 'Jina' Amini died in police custody. The circumstances of her death to date remain unclear. However, eyewitnesses claimed she died of police brutality.

The news of her death came after Amini was apprehended by the Guidance Patrol, which serves as Iran's government religious morality enforcement, on suspicion of not conforming to the government's hijab regulations.

Iranian Women Remain Resilient

Reports of her demise soon went viral across social media platforms, sparking a wave of protests that initially erupted during her funeral in Saqez, her hometown. These protests swiftly expanded throughout the nation, with participants passionately chanting "Woman, life, freedom" in a direct challenge to Iran's religious leaders.


Among the protesters, women and young individuals played a prominent role, directing their anger at the Islamic Republic. They symbolically burned images of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanted slogans like "Death to the Dictator." Women, including schoolgirls, demonstrated their resistance to laws mandating headscarves and loose-fitting clothing by removing and burning their head coverings.

The intensity of these protests was particularly pronounced in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities that have historically faced discrimination from the state. This included areas with Kurdish populations in the northwest and Baluchi communities in the southeast.


In response, authorities imposed travel bans and issued jail sentences for various public figures, ranging from athletes to actresses. Security forces took aggressive measures to suppress the protests, using tear gas, batons, and, in some instances, live ammunition, even as the demonstrations persisted into the new year.

Recently, as Amini's death anniversary neared, security forces tightened their hold. In August, pop singer Mehdi Yarrahi was arrested due to his song 'Roosarito' meaning, 'Your Headscarf,' in which he advocates for women to have the choice to remove the compulsory veil. Meanwhile, the prominent dissident Majid Tavakoli seems to be on the verge of yet another extensive prison term for his advocacy of liberal ideas. 

Oppressive Iranian Laws


The foundation of Iran was laid with the bricks of hard-core patriarchal bias. Among the initial actions taken by Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution when he assumed power in 1979, was the rollback of women's rights in matters such as marriage, child custody, and divorce. These changes included reducing the legal marriage age for women from 18 to 9, and even today, girls as young as this age can be wedded in Iran.

Iranian women not only grapple with compulsory veiling but are also prohibited from engaging in solo public dancing or singing, riding bicycles, attending sports events in stadiums, pursuing careers as judges or aspiring to the presidency. They are directed to sit at the rear of buses and require their husband's consent to travel abroad. Moreover, their courtroom testimonies and inheritance rights are appraised at half the value of those held by men.


Why Do Men Control Women?

Throughout history, patriarchal laws and norms have been used throughout several societies, resulting in the subordination and discrimination of women. These laws have been used to regulate and control various aspects of women's lives, including marriage, property ownership, and personal autonomy. 

One of the most significant reasons these patriarchal societies are intimidated by independent women is insecurity. They might perceive strong, independent women as a threat to their self-esteem and ego. The fear of inadequacy can be overwhelming for some individuals, leading to discomfort in the presence of a woman who does not rely on them for financial or emotional support.


The shift away from traditional gender roles can be unsettling for some men who grew up in a culture where the man was expected to be the primary breadwinner and decision-maker. The challenge to these established norms can create anxiety and resistance.

While some men may have misconceptions that an independent woman lacks of desire for a committed relationship and perceive them as overly dominant or aggressive, several others fear rejection from independent women since they are often self-sufficient and do not rely on relationships for financial stability.

Patriarchal laws have had far-reaching consequences for women's lives and freedoms. They have limited women's ability to make decisions about their own bodies, participate fully in the workforce, and enjoy equal opportunities and protections under the law. These laws have also contributed to the persistence of gender-based violence and discrimination.


The Conclusion

Mahsa Jina Amini embodied a striking combination of qualities; youth, female identity, and belonging to religious and ethnic minority groups. She symbolised the rich diversity within Iran, standing in stark contrast to the prevailing image of the Islamic Republic, which is characterized by a homogenous, intolerant, elderly, male, Shia clerical leadership.

History has repeatedly shown that when women take a leading role in democratic movements, the chances of success increase, and the outcomes tend to be more favourable for all individuals striving for their rights and freedoms.

The emphasis on women's rights within Iran's anti-hijab movement adds substantial strength to the broader goal of achieving a free, secular, and democratic world for women. Consequently, Iran's "Woman Life Freedom" revolution not only persists but also stands as one of the most significant and promising political movements in the modern history of the Middle East.

Views expressed by the author are their own,

Suggested Reading: Long Jail Time, Harsh Penalties: What Does Iran's New Hijab Law Say

#iran protests ##Mahsa Amini #Iran #Mahsa Amini Death