“Woman, Life, Freedom!” students at Tehran University chanted on Sunday, September 18, marching through campus while holding up placards bearing Mahsa Amini’s name. Some female students had taken off their headscarves, in protest, as Kurdish women had done earlier during the burial ceremony for their 22-year-old countrywoman.
Protests continued on Monday morning despite a targeted internet shutdown in Saghez and Sanandaj, as well as individual civil rights activists receiving threats and an extensive deployment of security forces in both cities.
Protests on social media continued as well. A number of women joined a campaign to burn their headscarves on camera. Some other women cut off their own hair in protest against the Islamic Republic forcing hijabs on women, while men shaved their beards. Some actresses who have always worn hijab in public posted pictures of themselves without on social media.
Mahsa Amini, called Zhina by her friends and loved ones, was on holiday in Tehran with her family when she was forced off the street into a morality patrol van and taken away for "re-education". Two hours later she was rushed hospital in a coma and declared braindead. She died on Friday.
It is not yet clear what happened to Mahsa between her arrest and her arrival at the centre. State TV claimed she had had a sudden heart attack while at the so-called "re-education" session - but the regime has said this about other cases where people were tortured to death in custody before, and pictures of Mahsa in hospital clearly show blood and discoloration around her ear, which suggests a blow to the head. Earlier, IranWire had spoken to three doctors, and all three were emphatic that a stroke or heart attack could not have caused this.
On the evening of Friday, September 16, when Mahsa’s death was announced, protesters gathered outside Kasra Hospital despite the presence of security forces. Police closed all avenues leading to the hospital and anti-riot police were deployed in Argentina Square where the hospital is located. There are reports that a number of protester were arrested. As of now, two of them have been identified: civil activist and former political prisoner Leila Mir Ghaffari and the 24-year-old Kurdish activist Zanyar Mohammad-Nejad from Sanandaj, who lives in Tehran.
On Saturday, September 17, the body of Mahsa Amini was taken to Aichi Cemetery in Saghez. An eyewitness told IranWire: “The Amini family had announced that funeral services would be held at 10am. But security forces, who had come from Tehran, wanted the burial to take place sooner, before the crowd arrived. However, a number of people who had gathered at the cemetery at dawn did not let the ambulance [carrying Mahsa] open its doors before the crowd arrived.”
Mahsa was buried as the mourners cried and sang Kurdish songs about equality. In one instance, Kurdish women removed their headscarves and chanted “Death to the mercenary dictator!” Men who were present at the ceremony cheered this action by the women.
After Mahsa’s burial, the mourners and protesters marched to the Saghez governor’s office, chanting slogans as they marched. The anti-riot police intervened with violence. There are reports that they fired teargas and shot at the protesters with pellet guns.
Pictures and names of some injured protesters have already been posted on social media. Both Kian Darakhshan and Mohammad Parsa were taken to the hospital after they were they were shot. The condition of both has been reported as critical.
The Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw reported that 18-year-old Nechirvan Maroofi, a native of the village of Trojan in Saghez county, had been shot in the eye by a pellet gun and lost sight in that eye.
According to local sources, internet service for mobile phones has been cut since September 17 and internet service to homes has been severely slowed.
The protests in Saghez also spread to the provincial capital of Sanandaj. Chanting “Saghez is not alone; Sanandaj supports Saghez”, protesters gathered in the city’s Eghbal Square. In the videos posted online, women in Sanandaj face anti-riot police who are trying to disperse them as they continue to chant.
The Sanandaj protesters were also met with teargas and pellet guns and several of the protesters, whose identities remain unknown, were arrested. Internet service for mobile phones in Sanandaj has been completely cut.
Hengaw reported that at least 38 people in Saghez and Sanandaj were injured by the anti-riot police, either by pellet guns or by batons, and 13 were arrested.
According to this report, at least 33 people were injured in Saghez by pellet guns. Five in critical condition were taken to hospitals in Tabriz, the provincial capital of East Azerbaijan, including Parsa Sehat, Nechirvan Maroofi, Kian Darakhshan and two others, who all suffered injuries to their eyes.
On Saturday, September 16, a number of human rights activists in Sanandaj and Saghez also reported that they have been threatened by security agencies. One was Zhina Modarres Gorji, a women’s rights activist in Sanandaj. According to Farzad Seifikaran, a reporter for Radio Zamaneh, Gorji was told that “you will not see the sun rise again.” According to him, security agents went to her bookshop three times and, after they could not find her, they summoned her by phone. An informed source told IranWire that Gorji was then interrogated.
On Sunday, September 18, a human rights activist sent this message to IranWire from Sanandaj: “The judiciary has sent a message to the public in this city, that all social and cultural activities and other activities by organizations that do not belong to the government must stop until further notice. The anti-riot police have been deployed to all main squares. Internet service for mobile phones is sporadic and internet service to Saghez has been completely cut. To send this news, people travelled to the city of Bukan, 15 kilometers from Saghez, in West Azerbaijan.”
And in the same morning, September 18, protests also spread to Tehran University. Protesting students carried placards bearing Mahsa’s name and chanted “Students rather die than live in misery!” A number of female students removed their scarfs during the protests. A student who was present told IranWire that the protest ended without arrests but that agents of the university’s security department filmed everyone who had participated.
According to this source, another rally in Tehran University’s College of Engineering had been planned for Sunday afternoon but, before people gathered, student activists announced that it had been canceled.
And despite internet service interruptions, online protests over Mahsa’s death have also continued. In addition to the Kurdish women burning their headscarves, as men shaved their beards and other women cut their hair, a number of profiles on Instagram showed a black square with just the #Mahsa hashtag. And the actresses Katayoun Riahi and Shabnam Farshadjoo, who have always appeared with hijab in photos online, have now posted pictures of themselves without any head coverings. Riahi also posted a picture Mahsa Amini alongside her own Instagram photos.
As of Sunday, the Persian hashtag for Mahsa Amini had been used more than two million times on social media, even though NetBlocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cybersecurity and internet governance, reported significant internet outages in Iran.