Furious Iranians marking the death of Mahsa Amini could spark bigger unrest than ever before as they protest one year since the 22-year-old died after being seized by dress code cops.
The hardline Iranian regime was rocked by unrest across the country after the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian died in hospital after she was arrested by morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab in accordance with strict government rules.
Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic of Iran said the young woman died of a heart attack, but huge protests erupted after eyewitnesses reported she had actually been beaten to death.
In scenes not witnessed in the hardline state for nearly a decade, scores of young people took to the streets burning cars and clashing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Last year Express.co.uk exclusively revealed how sections of Mehrabad International Airport, in the capital Tehran, were reportedly sectioned off for regime officials to escape the country in private jets if the protesters took over.
Across the world people marched in solidarity with Iranians. Politicians, Oscar-winning actors and women and girls publicly cut their hair in protest at the dress code laws.
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The hashtag MahsaAmini became the most used on Persian Twitter and has since had more than 80million uses worldwide. In the brutal crackdown that followed the protests, the Iranian authorities arrested thousands of people, including many journalists who covered Mahsa’s story.
However, despite the imprisonments simmering unrest has continued and it’s thought bigger protests than before could explode onto the streets to mark the anniversary of Mahsa’s death on September 16.
Social media data shows “the anniversary of Mahsa” has been posted almost 350,000 times since mid-June, according to Sky News.
Yeganeh Rezaian, Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher from The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) told Express.co.uk: “The regime launched a heavy crackdown on protesters with thousands being arrested and many were killed. But despite all that, people are still coming to the streets.
“It might be sporadically and with smaller numbers, but the truth is the protests are ongoing in most cities and we can expect a bigger turn out as we get closer to the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in September.”
Yeganeh said CPJ is concerned Iranian journalists had been “harassed, arrested and persecuted” for simply doing their jobs covering the death of Mahsa.
Three female journalists have been arrested – Nazila Maroofian, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi.
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Yeganeh said: “Nazila Maroofian, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi are the emblematic cases because they were among the first journalists to report on the case, therefore, the regime is punishing them much worse to give a lesson to the rest of domestic journalists and scare them off to silence them and make them censor themselves and refrain from reporting the realities on the ground.
“According to their families who were given very limited access to these women, their general health is good, and they are trying to keep their spirits up despite terrible prison conditions.
“They were able to hire attorneys but again they were given very limited access to their lawyers, reportedly only meeting their lawyers twice and each time for just a few minutes in the presence of guards.”
Yeganeh urged the international community to do more to engage with the regime and hold them accountable for their actions.
She said: “The silence of Western powers when it comes to the regime’s human rights issues is complicit.
“The situation is as bad as it has always been (for women in Iran). Morality police enforcing hijab on Iranian women has never disappeared or slowed down. Instead, women are now so braver, fearless and fierce and are ready to face the consequences.
“Any news saying morality police made it easier on women for a while in the past few months is farce and is orchestrated by the regime as a tactic to save face in the international community and make the world think the regime is ready for reform. There is no hope for reform in this system.”
According to Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) 522 people thought to have died in the protests since resistance broke out last year, including 68 members of the security forces and 70 children.
The organisation said 110 people had been charged with offences that could lead to the death penalty.
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