Iran protests are changing conversation of what laws should be

Demonstrators protest following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, October, 22, 2022. Photo by REUTERS/Christian Mang/File Photo.

Protests continue in Iran and worldwide 40 days after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody. She was detained by Iran’s morality police for not properly wearing a headscarf. Amini’s death also coincides with a massive fire that erupted earlier this month at the Evin prison in Tehran. Iranian state media says eight people died from the fire.

“There have been widespread protests in Iran over different economical social grievances. I think it's fair to say that many did not expect this particular incident to be the spark of such huge … protest movement. But the long track record of authorities ignoring people's demands and long track record of their impunity are the root causes of these protests,” says Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch.

She says she’s worried about how authorities will proceed in trying to repress the demonstrations. “They have used violence. … What we're particularly concerned about right now is the situation of detainees, and how they are going to be put through extremely unfair trial process.”

Regardless of where the protests go and for how long, she adds that activists have already changed the conversation.

“They've already pushed back on authorities’ narrative of what laws should be because they have demonstrated how unjust, for instance, the compulsory hijab laws are. In today's Iran, some women are taking the risk to leave the house without the headscarf. This used to happen on a smaller scale before, but now it's an act and symbol of resistance.”