Death and the Headscarf

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Protests erupted in Iran’s capital over the weekend following the death of a 22-year-old woman, who died after being detained by the country’s morality police enforcing the government’s stringent dress code, the New York Times reported.

Last week, Iran’s notorious religious police detained the woman, Mahsa Amini, for failing to properly adhere to the hijab (scarf) regulations, which require women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes.

Amini was later taken to a detention center where she was subjected to so-called “educational training” on the hijab laws. It was from the center that Amini was taken to hospital, fell into a coma, then died on Friday.

Authorities said the young woman suffered a heart attack. Her parents disputed this claim, saying their daughter was very healthy – and in any case had followed the Islamic dress code.

Her death has sparked widespread outrage in Iran, including criticism from officials, senior clerics and celebrities centering on the morality police, which has a reputation for arbitrarily enforcing the rules and employing tactics that include violently dragging women into vans.

In recent years, Iranian women have challenged the law – in force since 1981 – and have appeared in public without a required scarf or robe.

Following Amini’s death, many Iranians called for an end to the practice of harassing women for failing to strictly adhere to the hijab rules. Others, meanwhile, criticized the country’s Islamic government, including chanting “death to Khamenei,” referring to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Amid the outrage, government officials said they will launch an investigation into Amini’s death.

Even so, human rights advocates doubt there will be any accountability for Amini’s death, saying that the roots of the problem are laws that allow security forces to detain women for their choice of attire.

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