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Mahsa Amini: A turning point for Iran

According to Islamic history, in the year 624 AD, there was a Jewish tribe called Banu Qainuqa. They were one of the main tribes of…

According to Islamic history, in the year 624 AD, there was a Jewish tribe called Banu Qainuqa. They were one of the main tribes of the Jews (after Banu Nadir and Banu Quraiza) who had signed a peace treaty with the Muslims. They promised Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that they would live peacefully with the Muslims in Madina and defend the city against enemies of Islam. 

However, not long after, the Muslims noted that the Jews began to mock them, writing satirical poems about the prophet (PBUH) in order to humiliate them. They (the Jews) started to violate the treaty with mischievous acts aimed at creating disharmony between the Muslims and collaborating with the polytheists Quraysh against the Muslims. Despite this, the Prophet was said to have tolerated their excesses.

That is, until the incidence in the market place.

There is always a breaking point for injustice. The straw that will eventually break the camel’s back. Like Mohammed Bouazizi and the Arab Spring. Like Eric Garner and the Black lives Matter. And now Mahsa Amini and the protests in Iran.

Anyway, back to history.

One day, a woman from the Ansar of Madina went to the shop of a Jewish Jeweller; her face was covered. The Jew asked her to uncover her face which she refused. The goldsmith secretly pinned her clothing with a thorn and as such, upon getting up, she was stripped naked. The Jewish people gathered and laughed at her nakedness. A Muslim man in the market, upon hearing the resulting commotion attacked the shopkeeper. A fight broke out and the shopkeeper was killed. In retaliation the Jews in turn killed the Muslim man. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa.

The Jews challenged the Prophet (PBUH) to war which he agreed to. History reports that the Jews were expelled from Madina and besieged for fifteen days, after which the tribe surrendered unconditionally.

Now, if you were to be asked why the peace treaty between the Jews and Muslims was broken, what would be your answer?

On 13th of September 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from the Kurdistan Province of Iran, was arrested by the Guidance Patrol (Moral police) in Tehran while visiting with her family. Amini was arrested for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards. That she wore it ‘too loosely’. Her brother, Kiaresh Amini, who was with her when she was arrested, was told she would be taken to the detention center to undergo a “briefing class” and released an hour later. Her brother waited at the police station for two hours, after which he was informed that his sister had had a ‘heart attack’ and a ‘brain seizure’. For two days, Amini was in a coma in the ICU. On the 16th of September, Amini died under suspicious circumstances, allegedly due to police brutality. 

The morality police of Iran’s Law Enforcement Command said she had a heart attack at the station, fell on the floor, and died after two days in a coma. However, eyewitnesses and women who were detained with Amini said she was severely beaten on the head, which, in addition to forensic investigation shows that she suffered a cerebral haemorrhage (brain injury).

Protests began after Amini’s funeral on September 17th in her home region, the Kurdistan province in the country’s northwest, but quickly spread across Iran to as many as 80 cities and swelled in the capital, Tehran. Iranian women have taken to burning hijabs and cutting their hair in public and on social media as a means of standing in solidarity with Amini. Crowds gathered in Tehran’s public squares and shocking videos have gone viral of police assaulting peaceful protestors. Protests have also spread internationally.

Amnesty International reports that Iran’s highest military body instructed the commanders of armed forces in all provinces to “severely confront” protesters who took to the streets following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police. So far, the crackdown has left at least 52 identified victims dead and hundreds injured to date.

To better understand what is happening in Iran, let me explain a little about the Kurds.

While most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, religion is not a determining factor to be Kurd; There are Yazidi Kurds, Shiite Kurds and Christian Kurds. The Kurdish identity is mostly a linguistic and cultural one. This is why, for example, alcohol can be found all around Kurdistan and in most of its regions, you’ll find women going around with their head uncovered. In the South (Tehran, Iran), alcohol is heavily frowned upon and cannot be readily found. Most women go out wearing the full Hijab, an abaya.

Cultural differences.

Imagine if a Yoruba Muslim woman travels to Kano and is arrested by Hisbah for not covering her hair properly. This woman then dies in police custody under suspicious circumstances and Nigerians come out to protest in outrage.

Now, I ask again, what is the cause of the protests and subsequent chaos and deaths?

If your answer, like the answer to the first question is ‘a woman’. Then you are not only wrong but a misogynist as well.

If your answer to the second question is ‘the hijab’. Then you are wrong again. Also, you are bigoted.

The correct answer is Injustice. Oppression. Police brutality. Corruption. And Sheer bigotry.

What is happening in Iran is similar to the Black Lives Matter protests that rocked the United states after a policeman was caught on camera suffocating a black man to death on the street. This is what happens when people become fed-up of the oppression and brutality the suffer at the hands of police (moral or otherwise) and government. Activists have emphasized that the protests aren’t just about women’s rights or eradicating hijab laws, but rather about the harsh realities of living under an authoritarian regime. Iranians have confessed to allegation the increased incidence of bribery among the police and that $100 causes them (the police) to look the other way.

Watching the protests in Iran saddens me greatly. It is a constant reminder of where we are headed in Nigeria. For as long as injustice prevails, and Hisbah continues to cherry pick whom to punish and whom to turn a blind eye to; for as long as the police continue to harass and torture the innocent masses while the rich bribe their way through the system; for as long as we remain intolerant of one another, insisting on dictating what women wear or should not wear; whether they remove face covering or punish them for wearing it ‘too loosely’; for as long as injustice and corruption continues to prevail in this country, then, we are doomed to the same fate as Iran. 

Maybe it will be a turning point for us all. Or the beginning of something worse. 

Either way, only time will tell. 

May the soul of Mahsa Amini and all those who died in the protests, rest in peace. 

As for the police who killed her, may you all suffer a similar ‘heart attack’ and ‘brain seizure’. 


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