EXPLAINER: What kept Iran protests going after the first spark?

After a 22-year-old lady passed away while being detained by the morality police for breaking the nation’s rigidly enforced Islamic dress code, protests have erupted across Iran in recent days.

Amid threats of beatings and possible arrest, courageous acts of disobedience have been seen in response to the murder of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by Iran’s morality police for wearing an allegedly unsecured headscarf, or hijab.

Some women tore off their required headscarves during public rallies, spinning them in the air as a show of defiance. Two women were seen in viral videos tossing their hijabs into a bonfire. Another woman is seen protesting by publicly shaving off her hair.

Amini’s death has come to symbolize the Islamic Republic’s oppressive policing of dissent and the morality police’s the increasingly harsh treatment of young women, according to many Iranians, especially the younger generation.

At a few of the protests, demonstrators and police engaged in physical altercations, and Tehran’s capital witnessed the rise of significant clouds of tear gas. The motorcycle-riding Basij, or volunteers in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, also pursued and attacked protesters with clubs. Police.

In the past, the Basij have forcibly put down demonstrations against the nation’s crumbling economy and water rights.

Despite the danger of being arrested, imprisoned, or even given the death penalty, some protesters continue to cry “death to the tyrant,” criticizing both Iran’s theocracy and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s administration.

Look at the causes of the demonstrations and potential outcomes below.


Amini was detained by Iran’s morality police on September 13 as she was on a visit to Tehran from her birthplace in the country’s western Kurdish region. She passed away three days after collapsing at a police station.

She was held by the police for donning her headscarf too loosely. In public, Iranian women are required to cover their hair entirely with a headscarf. Now, only Afghanistan, which is ruled by the Taliban, actively executes legislation like that. Saudi Arabia, a country known for its extreme conservatism, has scaled up enforcement recently.

Police claim that Amini died of a heart attack and deny that she was treated unfairly. A probe has been promised by President Ebrahim Raisi, who will address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

Amini’s family claims they were not allowed to see Amini’s body before she was buried and that she had no history of heart problems. After her funeral on Saturday in the Kurdish city of Saqez, protests broke out and swiftly extended to other regions of the nation, including Tehran.


Iranian women are fully able to pursue their education, occupy public office, and work outside the home. However, they are compelled to dress modestly in public, which includes donning long, baggy robes and the hijab. Men and women who are single are not allowed to mix.

The morality police enforce the laws, which have been in place since the days following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The Guidance Patrol, as the group is formally known, has positions spread out throughout public spaces. Both men and women are included in it.

Under former president, Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate who sometimes accused the morality police of being overly tough, enforcement was laxened. 2017 saw the police chief declare that women will no longer be detained for failing to adhere to the dress code.

However, morals police seem to have been let loose under Raisi, a hardliner elected last year. According to the U.N. human rights office, young women have recently been shoved into police cars, hit in the face with batons, and slapped.

HOW HAVE the protests been handled in Iran?

EXPLAINER: What kept Iran protests going after the first spark?

Iranian leaders have vowed to look into the circumstances surrounding Amini’s passing while charging that unspecified foreign nations and exiled opposition groups are using it as justification to stir up unrest. That has been a recurring theme in the recent wave of protests.

The governing clerics in Iran think that embracing Western customs weakens society and that the United States poses a threat to the Islamic Republic. Khamenei has taken it upon himself to characterize so-called “color” protests taking place in Europe and elsewhere as foreign incursions rather than calls for increased civil liberties.

Since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and reintroduced severe sanctions, tensions have risen significantly. The Biden administration has been attempting to resurrect the agreement with European partners for the past two years, but talks have stalled in light of nonproliferation experts’ warnings that Iran has enough highly refined uranium to make a nuclear bomb if it decides to do so. The Islamic Republic maintains that its plan is nonviolent.

Without providing further details, Tehran’s governor stated on Wednesday that three foreign nationals were detained during rallies in the city. At least 25 people have been detained by Iranian security forces, and without going into further detail, the governor of the province of Kurdistan claims that three people have been murdered during unrest related to the protests by armed groups.

In recent protests, including those against gasoline prices in 2019, activists and human rights organizations have accused Iranian security forces of killing protestors.

COULD the demonstrations topple Iran’s government?

EXPLAINER: What kept Iran protests going after the first spark?

Iran’s governing clerics have faced numerous protest waves over many years, finally putting an end to them with force.

The Green Movement, which arose following Iran’s contested presidential election in 2009 and demanded extensive reforms, posed the greatest significant threat to the mullahs’ authority. Millions of Iranians flocked to the streets in support of the movement.

The Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia launched waves of arrests as part of the government’s violent crackdown in response. Leaders of the opposition were put under house arrest.

Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old woman who rose to prominence in the protest movement after being shot and bleeding to death in a video seen by millions online, was one of the victims.