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Breaking Chains: The Fight for Women's Rights in Iran

One Year After Mahsa Amini's Death, Advocacy and International Solidarity Continue to Shine Light on Injustice.

By: Ava Bowers

It has been one year since the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who was detained by police in Iran over her “improper” hijab for 3 days before her death on 16th September, less than a month before her 22nd birthday. Her death caused mass protests and a call for women’s rights.

In the following months of Amini’s death there was a noticeable increase in women in Iran protesting the young woman’s wrongful death by refusing to wear hijabs and advocating for their rights in the streets. Their cry for their human rights to be implemented sparked a worldwide support for the women of Iran.

According to UN experts, “under the current version of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, any act deemed “offensive” to public decency is punishable by 10 days to two months in prison or 74 lashes. Women seen in public without a veil could be sentenced to between 10 days and two months in prison or a fine.”

There were initial reports that the protests were having a positive impact in obtaining women’s rights with the argument that how one dresses doesn’t impact their beliefs.

Photo from: Themiddleeastinstitute

The OHCHR shared that the protests ignited the State’s response to crack down on arrests, executions and persecution of victim’s family members and unlawful trials. This treatment is continuing to this day.

The disappointing truth is that the Government of the Islamic Republic is choosing to incite more fear and repression rather than support those who have suffered and protect their citizens from harm from their own morality police. Their laws are only becoming more sexist and limiting women and girls from equality and opportunities.

As if the protests for human rights not being respected was enough, there were reports made to UN experts that Amini’s father was detained in the days coming up to the young woman’s 1 year anniversary to discourage any organisation of memorial. They released him shortly after the warning and on 16th September police surrounded their family home to prevent them from leaving to commemorate their daughter at her grave.

There has been a long history of people protesting and advocating for women’s rights in Iran. But, there has also been increased enforcement of restrictions and discriminatory action against female citizens, particularly towards their choice of dress, access to education and healthcare, as well as their employment decisions.

The Islamic Republic of Iran have refused to sign and ratify all UN human rights treaties, according to the United Nations human rights committee notable treaties they haven’t committed to are the “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women :1753” and the “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment :1753”. How can the international community support and encourage change within human rights in Iran? How do we encourage the Government to update and adapt to modern times without harming their citizens in the process? If trade is cut off or world events refuse to allow Iranian participation for example, a message will be conveyed to the Government but, in the process the citizens of Iran are the ones who will truly suffer. That doesn’t even guarantee that positive change will occur.

There is also the question of whether we have the right to intervene. I would argue yes, but is that because as a Western society I have been influenced to believe that we have the divine right to decide what is right and wrong? Perhaps that is a factor. But I will stand with the argument that we have fundamental human rights and Iran is in violation of them, particularly against women and children.

Military intervention is technically an option, but not an optimal one in my opinion. All you have to do is look at Afghanistan and realise that doesn’t work long term. People want their country in the hands of those they have voted for and trust to put their needs first. Having a foreign county intervene and take over is not going to work forever, even if it does help short term.

How can we help support human and women’s rights in Iran then? Attending protests, raising awareness and sending financial support to human rights activist in Iran are a few options available that can help make a difference. Below are some links to human rights organisations in Iran if you wish to learn more or donate.

Iran Human Rights | Official Website (

Front Page - Center for Human Rights in Iran (


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