Iran cuts internet to prevent protest burning of hijabs going viral

Heavy riots in Iran have shown no signs of abating, prompting the government to cut the internet to Tehran and Kurdistan. 

Protests were sparked after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, who died in hospital on 16 September. Three days after she was arrested and reportedly beaten by morality police in Tehran for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” way.

Activists said Amini had suffered a fatal blow to the head, a claim that has been refuted by officials, who are maintaining that she died of natural causes.  Her family believes that she was subjected to beating and torture.

Masha Iran death
Credit: Guardian

Amini’s death came amid a new government decree to clamp down on women’s rights. Iran’s hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, signed an order On 15 August, that increased the punishment for women posting anti-hijab content online.

Raisi has stated that Amini’s death is still under investigation, but that early signs from the inquiry showed there had been no sign of violence that led to her death. “All signs point to a heart attack or brain stroke,” he said while stressing  “that is not the final determination”.

Protesters have taken to the streets and set fire to police stations and vehicles and bins. A chorus of anti-government slogans is being chanted in the streets. 

Videos of women cutting their hair, and burning their hijabs have proliferated social media under the hashtag #Mahsa_Amini.

Iranian state media reported that by Wednesday street rallies had spread to 15 cities, with protesters having been stabbed or shot dead in the north-western city of Tabriz. The Iranian authorities have denied any involvement in the deaths of protesters.

Amnesty International said it had recorded the deaths of eight people – six men, one woman, and a child – with four shot by security forces at close range with metal pellets.

Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard Corps have called on the judiciary to prosecute “those who spread false news and rumours”. Fears are escalating, under growing concern for the safety of the activists if the internet blackouts continue.