Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old woman killed for refusing to cover her hair in Iran.


With very little in the news about what is happening to women in Iran, I was confused to see comments on Instagram reels asking creators to speak out, or waves of hashtags on videos across a range of subject matters. If you're in the same boat, you might find this breakdown useful.


On the 13th September, morality police arrested Mahsa Amini for allegedly refusing to wear a headscarf or hijab. Reports say that police beat Amini with a baton, but police deny this. They claim that Amini suffered a heart attack and released video footage of her collapse in a police station.


Women across Iran did not believe it then, and women across the world do not believe it now.


99.4% of the Iranian population identify as Muslim, which means they are members of the Islamic faith. Muslims follow the teachings of the Qur’an, in which the term ‘hijab’ is used to describe a curtain that separates the prophet Muhammad’s house from his wife’s residence. The Qur’an instructs women and men to dress modestly, as such, some Muslim women wear the ‘hijab’ to cover their hair in order to maintain modesty and privacy among men. Coverings only need to be worn around those that a Muslim woman could marry (under Islamic faith) and therefore excludes male members of her family and all women. Girls may choose to begin wearing a hijab when they reach puberty, and some women may then choose to stop wearing a hijab when they reach the menopause.


Women may also wear other garments to preserve their modesty. A niqab covers everything except the eyes; a hijab covers the hair and neck; a burka covers the entire body, with only a mesh window or grille for the women to see out of; a chador is a full-length cloak held closed at the front, and a dupatta is a long scarf draped across the head and shoulders. There are more types of covering, and which a woman wears may depend on her faith, region, marital status, or personal preference.


The hijab is currently a legal obligation in Iran and Afghanistan.


Protests began after Amini’s funeral with women removing their headscarves in solidarity. Since, the movement has grown. Women began demanding more freedoms, and some call to overthrow the state.


Videos of protests have shown women setting headscarves on fire, and even cutting their hair in public. Protesters often chant “Women, life, freedom”, or “Death to the dictator”, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Schoolgirls, men, and teenage boys have also gotten involved, supporting women and joining demonstrations in streets.


Independent media are banned from reporting inside of Iran, including the BBC, so it is nearly impossible to estimate or confirm how many women have been killed as a result of these protests. Claims from state media are unreliable, but by listening to Iranian women, activists, and human rights groups we can begin to build a picture of the level of mutiny these women are experiencing. 


Iran Human Rights have claimed that at least 234 people, including 29 children, have been killed. This group, however, is based in Norway. 


So, what can we actually do to help Iranian women?


The first step, as always, is to speak up. Iranian womens’ voices are being suppressed - be a vessel. While the issue may not be taking place in your country, Iranian women are living and listening to the suffering of their people all over the world, and many Muslim girls are looking to these women as a symbol of liberty and justice. 


The protests may be in Iran, but oppression is everywhere.


Follow Iranian women on social media, donate to individuals (not corporations or companies, who may take a percentage of donations) and listen.


Oppression and injustice is first addressed when it is first heard. 


Make it heard.