Hundreds of people demonstrated in London this weekend in protest of the murder of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s severe laws on women’s attire by wearing a “improper hijab.”
According to footage circulated online on Sunday, a group of demonstrators voicing their outrage over the strange murder of Mahsa Amini were storming toward the Iranian Embassy in the UK capital but were driven back by police, according to Euronews. In a different photograph, the structure overlooking Hyde Park is splashed with crimson paint.
“People are being killed, tortured and harmed in silence,” Sepideh Eskandari, who protested at Trafalgar Square with her friend Sogol on Saturday, told Euronews.
“We are here to be their voice and ask every other person — from wherever they are — to stand with women.”
“Basic rights are something everyone should want, both women and men,” she added.
Deadly unrest has rocked Iran for more than a week. It broke out after 22-year-old Amini collapsed while in police custody, having been arrested for “improper” hijab, a headscarf women must wear by law.
“Leaked medical evidence shows the young woman from the Iranian province of Kurdistan suffered several violent blows to the head, which put her into a coma. However, Iran’s authorities claim she “suffered a sudden heart attack,” reported Euronews.
She died on September 16. The two protestors, who are both in their early 30s, pointed out that the protests are about broader issues of sexism and discrimination in Iran, something brought into sharp focus by Amini’s death.
“As a woman, your rights are not equal to men,” said Sogol. “You always have to suppress whatever you feel. You can’t be truly who you are.”
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women must wear the hijab by law in Iran. The policy is largely unpopular, with Iranian women commonly wearing the headscarf loosely around their ears or letting it drop to the neck.
When the rule was implemented in 1981, it triggered mass demonstrations, which have continued sporadically ever since, reported Euronews.
Another demonstrator in Trafalgar Square on Saturday told Euronews he was appalled by bloodshed in Iran.
The regime wants to prove that they didn’t use any violence (against Amini) by using violence against protestors,” said Mohammad Hoshr, a lawyer. “It does not make any sense.”
“They (Iran’s authorities) are coming onto the TV and saying that nobody even touched this woman in custody, while at the same time they are shooting people on the streets,” he added.
Since last week’s protests in Iran, 35 people have been murdered. The great majority of these killings have resulted from security personnel forcibly repressing demonstrations, in some cases using live weapons. Security police have also detained hundreds of individuals, according to Euronews.
The UK government, along with other Western countries, has strongly denounced the “death” of Mahsa Amini, yet there has been criticism that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was not publicly pushed on the matter during a recent UN summit in New York.
“The Iranian government is so lacking in every aspect of humanity that they (western leaders) should keep away from them, rather than getting closer,” Hoshr continued.
Many policies of Iran, such as the compulsory hijab, are deeply unpopular among large sections of the Iranian population. Economic woes, especially inflation and a hugely devalued currency fuelled by sanctions, have only increased their frustrations.
Chants against Iran’s supreme leader and the Islamic Republic have been a regular feature at this week’s demonstrations, with many Iranians shouting “down with the dictator,” reported Euronews.