In the video, a large crowd cheers as a woman lifts a pair of scissors to her exposed hair, which is devoid of a hijab. As she chops off her ponytail and raises her fist in the air, a sea of people, many of them men, roars.
It was a powerful act of defiance Tuesday night in Kerman, Iran, where women are required to wear hijabs (or headscarves) in public, as outrage over the death of a woman in police custody fuels nationwide protests.
Three people, including a member of the security forces, were killed in the unrest, which has now entered its fifth day, according to Iranian authorities.
According to human rights organizations, at least seven people have been killed.
The death last week of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was arrested in Tehran by morality police – a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women, such as wearing the mandatory headscarf – sparked outrage over issues ranging from freedoms in the Islamic Republic to the crippling economic effects of sanctions.
The protests are notable for their size, ferocity, and unusual feminist nature; the last protests of this size occurred three years ago, after the government raised gas prices in 2019.
The protests, which began Saturday at Amini’s funeral in Iran’s Kurdistan province, have swept much of the country, resulting in clashes with security forces attempting to put them down.
During a speech to veterans and military commanders commemorating the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made no mention of the protests.
According to the semi-official Fars news agency, two people were killed during “riots” in the western city of Kermanshah on Tuesday. A police “assistant” was killed, and four others were injured during protests in Shiraz, the capital city of Fars province in southwestern Iran, according to the official IRNA state news agency.
According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network and Hengaw, two Kurdish human rights organizations monitoring violations in Iran, a 23-year-old in Urmia and a 16-year-old in Piranshahar were shot dead during protests on Tuesday, bringing the total number of demonstrators killed to seven. Thousands of people took to the streets Tuesday night, with footage from dozens of towns and cities ranging from the capital Tehran to more traditionally conservative strongholds like Mashad.
Protests have also taken place in almost all provincial towns in Iran’s Kurdish region, including Kermanshah and Hamedan.
According to witnesses, the Tuesday night demonstrations appeared to be “flash protests,” in which groups formed and dispersed quickly in order to avoid clashes with Iran’s security forces following the week’s escalation of violence.
According to a source, there was at least one instance of a heavy-handed police response on Tuesday, near Iran’s Enghelab (“Revolution”) Square on the western side of Tehran University, which has historically served as a rallying point for protests.
According to Hengaw, 450 people were injured during the protests.
Last Tuesday, Amini was stopped and detained by Iran’s morality police. According to Iranian officials, she died last Friday after suffering a “heart attack” and slipping into a coma following her arrest.
According to Emtedad news, an Iranian pro-reform media outlet that claimed to have spoken with Amini’s father, her family said she had no pre-existing heart condition.
Amini appeared to collapse at a “re-education” center where she was taken to receive “guidance” on her attire, according to edited security camera footage released by Iran’s state media. Iran’s morality police are part of the country’s law enforcement and are tasked with enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict social rules, such as its dress code, which requires women to wear a headscarf, or hijab, in public.
During a meeting with Amini’s family in their home on Monday, an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei promised a “thorough investigation” into her death, according to Iran’s semi-official Nour News agency.
According to Nour, Khamenei’s representative in Iran’s Kurdish province, Abdolreza Pourzahabi, said the Supreme Leader is “sad” and that the family’s grief “is his sorrow as well.”