Why Women Have Been Leading Protests in Iran since September 2022
by Sydney Peerman
“Woman, Life, Freedom,” has been the central slogan of thousands of protestors in Iran, continuing their fight against theocratic rulers of the Islamic Republic for basic human rights and the end of discriminatory practices toward women.
With March being International Women’s month, it is only right to focus on the women of Iran who are being arrested and killed as they protest against social discrimination and strict enforcements placed on them, including laws requiring the “proper wear” of the hijab in public.
The protests began in September of 2022, following the brutal beating and murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by the Iranian “morality police” for wearing her hijab “incorrectly.” This sparked nationwide protests as many Iranian people had grown tired of their restrictive government and its oppression of women.
Almost six months after the start of these demonstrations, the fight for basic human rights continues, making this insurrection one of the longest continuous protests since the inception of the Islamic Republic in Iran in 1979.
More than 19,700 people have been arrested during the protests as of a February update by the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). Along with this, the agency says there have been at least 530 people killed during protests due to violent suppression tactics from Iranian authorities, including four executions with public hangings. Aggressive attacks by security forces include the beating of protestors with batons, spraying tear gas, and in many cases, the use of firearms.
After more than 80 days of nationwide anti-government protests, they had already spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, including 160 cities and 143 universities.
The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared in early February that he would “pardon” the sentences of thousands of prisoners as an “annual amnesty.” But this so called amnesty included specific parameters that would disclude protestors.
Since this was announced, 6,169 prisoners have been pardoned or commuted from Iranian prisons, but the activists who cultivated this data are unsure as to how many protestors were among them.
After decades of patriarchal oppression, it makes sense why Iranian women are fed up. Laws such as the hijab law which enforces veiling for women and modest Islamic dress is a clear violation of basic human rights, taking away free choice and expression.
Iranian law additionally limits women’s ability to make decisions in their marriages, giving husbands the right to control where their wife works, whether she has a passport or can travel, and whether he provides basic necessities to her based on her “wifely duties,” among many other discriminatory practices.
Between March 2022 and 2023, there have been 38 documented cases involving the murder of Iranian women and 14 cases of a severe beating, both rooted in domestic violence.
In the same period, there have been 92 reported cases of the government closing women’s businesses or organizations due to improper wear of the Hijab by the owner or staff.
Many women have been arrested and killed in the six months since the protests began, as the Iranian government continues to target activists and protestors to silence dissent.
The protests in Iran have been especially notable as they have united all types of social classes in Iran, with different economic classes, ethnic groups, religious groups, ages and genders banding together in protest. Many businesses and trade groups have also played integral parts in the movement as they have organized strikes, causing more destabilization.
There have been around 1,280 protests as of February and these protestors aren’t showing any signs of stopping, though they have been slightly decreasing in number due to the regime’s brutal suppression tactics.
During the protests, women have been seen burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in public displays against the Islamic Regime while continuing the chant, “Woman. Life. Freedom.”
The aspiration is for regime change.