EDITORIAL - Iran at a crossroads?

The Freeman
EDITORIAL - Iran at a crossroads?

While there are moral codes that bind us as law-abiding individuals of society, morality is also hugely an individual concept. 

Which is why if a government decides to enforce what it considers moral when it comes to how one can dress in public, and even goes to the extent of deploying a punitive police force to enforce those codes, you can expect there will be conflict.

This was highlighted recently in Iran where protests erupted across the country after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amini was picked up by the Gasht-e Ershad, Iran’s “morality police”, after wearing her hijab the wrong way. She later died under still-mysterious circumstances under their custody.

While the morality police said she just collapsed suddenly in their detention center, her relatives say something was suspicious because she was in a coma when she was taken to the hospital.

Her death sparked protests in different parts of the country. Women were seen burning their hijab and one woman even cut her own hair in public. Human rights groups estimate some 50 people have already been killed in these protests.

Indignation has become so widespread the authorities have clamped down on internet access to prevent protesters from sharing their sentiments. They have also arrested Majid Tavakoli, an activist and the journalist who played a key role in exposing the case of Amini to the public.

A government should not make such a big deal about something as inconsequential or insignificant as how a woman wears an article of clothing. But then again, Iran has been led by autocrats and religious leaders who have a rigid interpretation of Islamic law for decades now; they are used to unquestioning obedience from their citizens.

However, there is no doubt that the protests aren’t just a show of sympathy for Amini or of the women expressing fears they will be picked up next by the morality police. There has been unrest long brewing under the surface in Iran, perhaps a consequence of --as mentioned earlier-- being led by autocrats and religious leaders who have a rigid interpretation of Islamic law for decades now.

A place where the trivial matter of how one wears something is treated seriously, while civil liberties like the right to expression, association, and assembly are being suppressed is a powder keg waiting to explode.

Whether or not this remains an isolated movement in sympathy of one person, or becomes a catalyst for social change, or leads to something else entirely more revolutionary, remains to be seen.

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