Anti-hijab protests timeline: How did one arrest snowball into massive agitation against Iran

The Islamic republic has responded to protests with a crackdown that has reportedly killed at least 481 people, while the UN says at least 14,000 have been arrested

Agence France-Presse January 22, 2023 11:16:28 IST
Anti-hijab protests timeline: How did one arrest snowball into massive agitation against Iran

File photo showing a protestor holding a placard with 22-years-old Mahsa Amini's picture in Berlin. Amini died on 16 September, 2022, after she was arrested by the morality police for not being dressed modestly enough. Her death has sparked one of the biggest protest movements that Iran has witnessed in a decade. AFP

Paris: The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by Iran’s notorious morality police more than four months ago has sparked the biggest protests in the Islamic republic in years.

The regime has responded with a bloody crackdown that the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group says has killed at least 481 people, while the United Nations says at least 14,000 have been arrested. Four people have been executed in relation to the protests.

Here is a timeline:

16 September, 2022: Mahsa Amini’s death

Amini, an Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, dies in hospital after being arrested three days earlier by the morality police — a unit that enforces dress rules for women, including the mandatory hijab or headscarf.

17 September: First protests emerge

Amini is buried in her home town of Saqez in Kurdistan province, in Iran’s northwest. Police fire tear gas to disperse a demonstration that follows the funeral.

In the following days, the hashtag #Masha_Amini clocks up more than one million tweets, including many videos of Iranian women cutting their hair to protest her death.

20 September: First deaths in the protest

Three people are reported killed during protests in Kurdistan province.

Videos posted on social media show women removing their headscarves and chanting “Woman, life, freedom” or “Death to the dictator”, a slogan directed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

22 September: Social media gagged

Iran blocks access to Instagram and WhatsApp, the two platforms most widely used in Iran, and imposes drastic restrictions on internet access.

The US places the morality police on its sanctions blacklist. Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom soon follow suit.

23 September: Counter-demonstrations

Thousands take part in pro-hijab counter-demonstrations in Tehran and other cities, in response to a call from the authorities.

The next day, President Ebrahim Raisi urges “decisive action” to end the anti-hijab protests.

3 October: Khamenei accuses US

On 2 October, students clash with security forces at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.

Khamenei the following day accuses arch-foes the United States and Israel of fomenting “riots”.

Days later, students stage sit-ins. Women burn headscarves and shout slogans against the Islamic republic.

10 October: Oil workers’ strike

The protests spread to the oil sector, with strikes and demonstrations in several cities.

Lawyers, shopkeepers, and teachers soon join the protests.

15 October: Prison blaze

A fire erupts during clashes at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where hundreds of those detained during the demonstrations are being held.

The blaze kills eight inmates, according to authorities.

26 October: Mass rally in Amini’s home town

Crowds pour into Amini’s home town to pay tribute at her grave, marking the end of the traditional 40-day mourning period.

As protests break out, Iranian security forces open fire on the crowd, the Hengaw rights group says.

8 December: First execution

Iran carries out its first protest-related execution, hanging a man who was sentenced to death for blocking a street and wounding a paramilitary member.

A second execution follows on 12 December, then two others on 7 January, 2023.

By 21 January, the judiciary has confirmed a total of 18 death sentences in connection with the protests, according to an AFP count based on official announcements.

10 January, 2023: Dress code sanctions

Iran’s judiciary orders police to “firmly punish” women who violate dress rules and urges courts to apply penalties including “exile” for violators.

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