Mahsa Amini’s Death: Homicide by the Iranian Police?


Middle East Monitor

Berkeley Protest 2022

Mandy Chen, Staff Writer

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, died on Sep. 16, 2022 while visiting Tehran with her brother. Amini was arrested by local police for improperly wearing her hijab. Witnesses and family claim the woman was brutally beaten moments before custody. Official statements from the morality police denied accusations of deploying lethal violence, asserting that the young woman died from a heart attack. Skull CT scans confirm that Amini sustained severe head trauma before enteringa comatose state and succumbing to her injuries, while family members reported seeing bruises on her body at the hospital.

The unfateful incident has spurred a wave of outrage throughout the world, even right here in the Bay Area. Fourth-year California State University, East Bay psychology student and human rights activist, Sepehr Khosravi was one of many students that participated in numerous protests over the last few weeks. Most notably, Khosravi reminisced on the protest held on Sunday, Sep. 25 at the Golden Gate Bridge. Based on his account of the Sunday protest, over 10,000 individuals came to stand in solidarity with Amini. 

On the Golden Gate Bridge, protestors of varied backgrounds linked arms to create a human chain — an uplifting, intimate, and “soulful experience” for Khosravi. “It wasn’t just Iranians,  there were folks from all different races,” said Khosravi, noting that Amini’s story of oppression is universally pertinent. Khosravi recalled, “There was a unifying and very spiritual, loving environment. Everyone respected each other.” The protest wasn’t marked by a rambunctious outpour of indignation, but by a somber march as a mournful tribute to Amini and other unvoiced victims of political injustice.  Khosravi said that the time has come when women are tired of mistreatment, and that Amini’s story serves as a tipping point. “They’re done. They can’t handle it anymore,” Khosravi affirmed. 

Amini’s plight is especially pressing to Khosravi, as he was subject to religious  persecution in Iran at a young age, forcing him to seek refuge in the U.S. at just seven years old. He is disturbed over the disparity between men and women in Iranian society; a particularly disturbing fact for Khosravi, whose mother and sister currently reside in Iran. “I don’t see myself superior to my mom or to my sister. I see us at [the] same levels,” Khosravi emphasized, stating that the issue has persisted for more than 40 years. 

As a solution, Khosravi supports the individual empowerment of women. “It is not my decision as an Iranian-American man or Iranian man to think about what hijabs are or not. It is solely the woman’s decision [to determine] what she wants to do with her body,” he noted. Nevertheless, he expressed disappointment with the lack of institutional acknowledgement, claiming that Kamala Harris and other politicians are not talking about Amini’s story. According to Khosravi, “the only thing we can do for Iran is to give hope and share the message.”

Vahid Fozdar, CSUEB history professor, noted that Amini’s case centers around patriarchal power. “It’s about women taking orders from men, thinking that women are not competent [enough] to make decisions themselves,” said Fozdar. 

Fozdar struggled to speculate the implications that Amini’s story has on the world, though the impact of the event is undeniable. Unfortunately, the reason this story stands out is because Amini lost her life. While plenty of other women get arrested for improper dress code by the morality police, these women don’t become martyrs. 

Even though Iran has their own set of beliefs and cultural values, the country is still a part of the United Nations, which requires that fundamental rights be protected. Stories like Amini’s are representative of the harsh reality that many countries are still set in their old ways and now might be the time for change. Fozdar stated that women in Iran have relaxed their attitudes towards conventional fashion rules by pushing the hijab further back, away from their hairline. Likewise, the authorities have loosened their code of conduct, meaning that morality police can get away with mistreatment of women under the pretense of enforcing the dress code.“The new regime is more hardline. They are cracking down [on women who are not following strict guidelines],” Fozdar explained. 

Amini’s case has garnered global publicity, serving as a reminder of the continued struggle for  women’s rights in an unequal world.