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Source: Washington Post

Sep 17, 2023

The story of Iran’s Mahsa Amini uprising told through its most iconic images

By Victoria Bisset

It was a movement that began with the death of a young Iranian woman from a small Kurdish town. Over the next year, it spread on social media and captured the attention of the world.

This is the story of Iran’s uprising through its most memorable images.

Mahsa Amini’s death

On Sept. 13, 2022, Mahsa Amini was visiting her brother in Tehran just days before her 23rd birthday when she was stopped and taken and taken away by the country’s infamous “morality police,” for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Within hours, Amini lay in a coma in a hospital bed, with Iranian police claiming that she had suffered a heart attack. Her family said she was beaten. The image of her shared on social media shook the country.Three days later, she died.

Removing the headscarf

The protests began on Sept. 16, the day Amini died, with crowds gathering outside the Tehran hospital where she spent her final days.As she was laid to rest in her hometown of Saqqez the following day, women took off their headscarves in protest. They chanted “woman, life, freedom” — a slogan that would soon be heard across the country.

Some women took off their headscarves, waving them in the air or setting them on fire. Others cut their hair in public, openly defying the morality police.

Targeting images of Khamenei

Images of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are everywhere in Iran, a symbol of his unquestioned authority.

As anger rose, protesters tore down posters and burned billboards featuring his face. “Death to Khamenei” became a rallying cry.

Rising up in universities

Universities became hubs of protest as young people became leaders of the movement. Campuses were raided by security forces. The government cut off the internet. Some students were detained or forced to abandon their studies.

When Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, visited one university in an attempt to calm protests, he was greeted by angry students yelling “get lost.”

In one clip, a group of young women can be seen singing the song “Baraye,” which became an anthem giving voice to protesters’ grievances and received a Grammy award for Best Song for Social Change.

Remembering Amini

In late October thousands of people made their way to Amini’s grave to mark the 40th day after her death — known as a “chehellom,” an especially important moment in the Iranian Shiite funerary tradition.

A photo of a young woman standing on a car without a headscarf became an iconic image.

This UGC image posted on Twitter shows a woman standing on a car as thousands of people head toward a cemetery in Mahsa Amini's Kurdish hometown to mark 40 days since her death. (AFP/UGC image)

Taking the protest to sports

Acts of protest weren’t confined to Iran. A number of Iranian athletes appeared to support the uprising on the world stage. Climber Elnaz Rekabi took part in a competition in South Korea without wearing a headscarf — mandatory for all women representing the country abroad.

Concerns for Rekabi’s welfare grew after a stilted message posted on her Instagram account claimed she was unintentionally not wearing a headscarf. She later returned home to crowds of supporters.

In November, members of Iran’s men’s soccer team at the World Cup refused to sing the national anthem during their first match against England, widely interpreted as a gesture of solidarity with the protesters back home.

Sardar Azmoun, a forward on the team, has been the most vocal champion of the uprising. “I don’t care if I’m sacked,” Azmoun wrote in a since-deleted post on Instagram last September. “Shame on you for killing people so easily. Viva Iranian women.” He later issued an apology on Instagram.

When the team was eliminated from the competition, protesters at home erupted in celebration over what they viewed as a symbolic defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Showing global solidarity

As the death toll rose during protests, a video shared on social media showed a woman cutting her hair over the grave of her brother, Javad Heydari, who was killed during the demonstrations. The gesture is found in ancient Persian literature as a sign of protest, anger or grief.

Women around the world, from members of the Iranian diaspora to politicians and celebrities, cut their hair in solidarity.

Kareem Fahim contributed to this report.

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