Iran hijab protests

Published September 25, 2022

FOR over a week now, Iran has been witnessing considerable tumult after a young woman died earlier this month in the custody of the country’s morality police. Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran with her family when she was reportedly apprehended by members of the force for not complying with the country’s strict dress code. Activists blame the young woman’s death on police brutality, while the authorities claim she died as a result of a “heart attack”. Numerous demonstrators have been killed as the state has sought to crush the protests, while security men have also been targeted in deadly attacks. Yet, hijacking the tragedy, Iran’s foreign foes have sought to use the protests as a geopolitical tool to embarrass the clerical regime. This not only takes the focus away from the protesters’ genuine demands for greater rights, it also exposes the West’s hypocrisy, as the US and Europe prefer to keep quiet when their allies indulge in similar authoritarian behaviour.

Iran’s rulers should examine the issues fuelling public discontent. If it is confirmed that Mahsa Amini died due to police brutality, those responsible must be punished, and such a tragedy should not be repeated. As for the Western bloc, their sudden benevolence for the Iranian people smacks more of politics than of genuine compassion. For example, the US has now felt the need to ease internet curbs for Iranians so that the country’s people are “not kept isolated”. America would be better off lifting its sanctions that prevent critical medicines from reaching Iranian patients. Though humanitarian exports to the country are allowed, America’s secondary sanctions “have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance such humanitarian imports”, according to Human Rights Watch. Moreover, while the West has roasted Iran over its handling of the Mahsa Amini case, there was little in the way of condemnation when Salma al-Shehab, a female Saudi PhD scholar, was handed a 34-year jail sentence for following the ‘wrong’ Twitter accounts last month. This selective outrage needs to end.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022

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