This mini-lesson can be used to help students examine any news story that relates to human rights. As of this update in the fall of 2022, the protest movement occurring in Iran has particular relevance, and the additional context offered in this section can help you explore this topic with your students if you choose.
In Iran, women are required by law to wear a hijab (headscarf) and loose-fitting clothing. Enforcement of the laws governing women’s dress has varied over time, but since the conservative leader Ebrahim Raisi came to power in 2021, the Guidance Patrols (also known as “morality police”) have stepped up enforcement.
On September 13, 2021, a young woman named Mahsa Amini was detained by a Guidance Patrol unit. She died several days later on September 16, while still in police custody. Her family believed she was beaten to death by the police, and there are witnesses who saw the police assault Amini. The government claims that she died of a heart attack. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have collected evidence that state officials in Iran frequently torture or otherwise mistreat prisoners.
Women’s rights activists had organized protests across the country in the weeks leading up to Amini’s arrest, and widespread public anger over her death added fuel to the movement. Some women have symbolically removed their hijabs in public in protest over laws that take away women’s choice whether to wear the hijab or not.
The Iranian government has responded harshly, firing live ammunition at protestors, killing at least 326 people as of November 14, 2022, and arresting protesters. On November 14, an Iranian court also sentenced a protester to death, raising concerns that the crackdown may worsen.
Protestors have a variety of goals, including promoting women’s rights, ending police brutality, and changing the system of government.