It’s always difficult to know when a single incident will spark dissent or widespread protest. No one could have imagined that the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi would lead ultimately to the 2011 revolutions that came to be known as the Arab Spring.
Impossible, too, to judge the lasting impact of protests that have followed the death of a 22-year-old woman in Iranian police custody. But it’s clear that a “spark” has been lit — and that it’s causing fires in other parts of Iran.
The woman’s name is Mahsa Amini. She was arrested by Tehran’s “morality police” for allegedly violating a law that women must wear headscarves in public. She died in police custody of what Iranian officials say was a heart attack. Her parents said she was perfectly healthy at the time of her arrest. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has reached out to Mahsa Amini’s family and promised an investigation into her death — but he has also deployed security forces to crack down on the protests.
Those protests are growing, spreading to dozens of cities. At least 7 protesters have been killed and more than 400 injured, according a statement from a human rights group. The photos here give some sense of the size of the protests and the emotions behind them.
Beyond their scope, the protests are significant because they are no longer exclusively about Mahsa Amini, or even the excesses of the morality police. While women have burned their own headscarves to protest the law, others who’ve taken to the streets are calling for an end to the Islamic republic — even “death to the supreme leader,” an unheard-of epithet (at least in public) in today’s Iran.