What happened to Mahsa/Zhina Amini?

In September 2022 Mahsa/Zhina Amini, a young woman from Iran’s oppressed Kurdish minority, visited Tehran with her brother. She was stopped and arrested by Iran’s “morality” police (gasht-e ershad), who routinely arbitrarily detain women who do not comply with the country’s abusive and discriminatory compulsory veiling laws.  

Eyewitnesses said that police pushed her into a van and beat her, taking her to Vozara detention centre in Tehran. Mahsa/Zhina Amini and her brother were told that she was being transferred to Vozara for an “educational” class aimed at “reforming” the behaviour of women and girls who violate the country’s rigid Islamic dress code. Her brother was also beaten when he protested. 

Hours after her arrest, credible reports arose that the “morality” police had subjected her to torture and other ill-treatment inside the police van, including through beatings to her head. She fell into a coma, and was transferred in an ambulance to Kasra hospital in Tehran.  

She died in custody three days later in hospital, on 16 September 2022.  

She was just 22. 

What happened to those who protested?  

Mahsa/Zhina Amini’s death in custody sparked the nationwide “Woman Life Freedom” uprising against decades of inequality and widespread repression. Iranian authorities responded with unlawful force, including by firing live ammunition, metal pellets and tear gas into crowds of largely peaceful protesters.  

Security forces unlawfully killed hundreds of protesters, including children, while hundreds of others were blinded due to the firing of metal pellets, with thousands more sustaining other serious injuries by unlawful use of force. Fearing arrest and other reprisals, many did not seek medical care. Tens of thousands of people were also arbitrarily arrested.  

During the uprising and its aftermath, intelligence and security forces also committed widespread torture and other ill-treatment. Many protesters, including children, were tortured.  

Is Iran executing protesters?  

Over the past year, the Iranian authorities have increasingly used the death penalty as a tool of political repression to instil fear among the public. Following grossly unfair sham trials, they executed seven men in relation to the uprising. 

Some were executed for alleged offences, such as damage to public property, which fall short of the threshold for more serious crimes involving murder and others in relation to the deaths of security personnel during the protests. All were executed after Iran’s Supreme Court rubberstamped their unjust convictions despite a lack of evidence and without carrying out investigations into allegations of torture.  

Protesters aren’t the only ones at heightened risk of execution by this ruthless campaign to quash dissent. The authorities have intensified their use of the death penalty for drug-related offences and have also executed political dissidents. They also are using the death penalty to target oppressed minority groups, including the Baluchi. This year, the authorities also executed individuals for their social media posts and for sexual relations between consenting adults.  

What is Amnesty doing?  

Since the December 2017-January 2018 nationwide protests, we have consistently documented crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by the Iranian authorities in protest-related crackdowns.

So far we have documented;

We have called for the establishment of an independent international investigative and accountability mechanism on Iran for years.  

When the ‘Women Life Freedom’ protests started in 2022, Amnesty supporters like you called on the United Nations to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate violations against the protesters. One million people, including 250,000 people in Iran, joined the call, and in November 2022 it was finally answered.  

We continue to demand the Iranian authorities immediately quash all convictions and death sentences that relate to the protests. We won’t stop investigating the crimes committed by Iranian authorities during and in the aftermath of the popular uprising, and calling for Iranian officials to be held to account. 

What’s happening now? 

There is still more work to do.  

Iranian authorities are still committing crimes against international law with impunit. As they tighten their iron grip on power they promote a climate of fear, eradicating dissent. 

They are torturing people in detention and harassing victims’ families if they dare to call for truth and justice. Women and girls are still facing prosecution, expulsion from school or university, job loss, car confiscation and other penalties for defying discriminatory veiling laws.  

The Iranian authorities have intensified their use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression and executed at least seven men in relation the uprising. Dozens more risk execution or being sentenced to death in connection to the uprising.  

This is why we need your help to call for a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Iran.  

What you can do to help protesters in Iran  

Stand in solidarity with people in Iran who continue to demand equality and an end to decades of repression, despite the risks. With many in Iran calling for protests on the one-year anniversary of the death in custody of Mahsa/Zhina Amini, there are fears that the Iranian authorities will resort to their usual brutal tactics. Show the Iranian authorities that the world is still watching and demanding an end to violations. Everyone has the right to peacefully protest without fear of reprisals, including threat of the death penalty.  

States must demand that Iranian authorities impose an official moratorium on all executions, send representatives to visit prisons holding people sentenced to death and seek attendance at trials of those charged with capital crimes. Governments must also pursue pathways for justice to address systemic impunity of Iranian officials.    

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