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Death toll in Iran protests rises: “People are fighting for the right to self-determination”


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The death toll in the protests in Iran continues to rise. People are still taking to the streets en masse to campaign for women’s rights following the death of Iranian Kurdish Mahsa Amini. The local authorities reacted strongly to this. Officially, at least 41 people have been killed, both protesters and officers, but the actual number is (much) higher, according to organizations and local sources. Many protesters, activists and journalists have also been arrested.

President Ebrahim Raisi warned last weekend that he would respond ” resolutely” to the protests. He blames the organizers for the unrest in the country and promises to crack down on “those who oppose the security and tranquility of the country”.

Images of Iranian activists are circulating on social media: people shout slogans against the government, set police cars on fire and women remove their headscarves and cut their hair. There are also many videos showing how women are treated violently by security forces or men on the street.

The protests have been met with violence by Iranian security forces. As a result, several people have been killed, whose photos and names are being spread on social media. This also applies to 20-year-old Hadis Najafi, a young woman who was hit by six police bullets and is now seen as a symbol of the protest movement.

This is Hadis Najafi getting ready to protest.

She was killed by Islamic Republic security forces in Iran.

Hadis was shot in the face, neck, heart and hands.

Never forget.
Never forgive.#MahsaAmini #مهسا_امینی #HadisNajafi #IranRevolution2022 #IranProtests2022 #OpIran pic.twitter.com/6wUc3HKY97

— Dr. Nina Ansary (@drninaansary) September 25, 2022

Exactly how many people died in the protests is unclear, especially because access to the Internet and social media in Iran is limited by the government. This makes it difficult for many Iranians to let the outside world know exactly what is happening in the country and who died when.

“It is difficult to say how many people have died, but every day there are reports of deceased people ,” says journalist Mina Etemad in TopiX. ” Often they are young, between 16 and 25 years.” Iranians who speak out or take to the streets are therefore at great risk. “In the previous mass demonstrations in 2019, more than 1500 people were later found to have been murdered. It may go in the same direction, but people are still demonstrating and coming together for their rights. That is very brave.”

People in the rest of the world are also making themselves heard about the situation in Iran. Mina explains that it is not necessarily just about whether or not to wear a headscarf, but that people are fighting for the right to self-determination, in other words being allowed to make your own choices. She herself also joined a protest here in the Netherlands last Friday, in order to strengthen the voice of Iranians. “It was special and nice to be able to mean something small by shouting the same slogans there as those shouted in Iran, although I am in no danger here. It is important to show that solidarity.”

Many people of Iranian descent do not dare to speak out publicly about the regime in Iran, even if they live in the Netherlands themselves. “I have now thought: I have always been afraid, but now I can’t help but speak out and stand behind the people there, even if that has consequences for me,” says Mina. For example, she indicates that she may not be able to travel to Iran in the future, because of the risk of being arrested. “We don’t know whether family there can be harmed, we are quite afraid of what could happen, but I think it is important now to think about the importance of the people in Iran.”


Mahsa Amini, 22, whose real first name is Zhina (Kurdish for ‘life’), was violently arrested on September 13 by the vice squad in the Iranian capital Tehran. The police check whether everyone follows the religious rules of the government and arrest women when they do not wear their headscarves (properly), walk-in ‘trousers’ or otherwise do not comply with the dress code. This was also the reason for Mahsa’s arrest and therefore she would be taken to an ‘education centre’ at the police station.

According to eyewitnesses, Mahsa was assaulted by the police. When her brother wanted to visit her at the police station, she was already on her way to the hospital. She died there a few days later. Authorities claim she died of ‘sudden heart failure’, but according to her family and witnesses, Mahsa went into a coma from blows to her head and had already been declared brain dead on arrival at the hospital. A United Nations commissioner demanded an investigation into the death, which the Iranian president ordered on Sept. 23 amid ongoing protests in both Iran and other countries.

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