Why Do People Hate Mahsa Amini?

Mahsa Amini was an Iranian woman who died in police custody in Tehran on September 16, 2022, sparking widespread protests across Iran. Her death has become a symbol of resistance against the mandatory hijab laws and broader repression of women’s rights in Iran.

But why do so many people harbor hatred towards someone who was a victim of injustice? This article will examine the complex reasons behind the animosity directed at Mahsa Amini.

Background on Mahsa Amini’s Death

On September 13, 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely. She collapsed at a police station and died 3 days later on September 16 while in custody. Her death was officially attributed to a heart attack, but her family and eyewitnesses claim she was beaten by police and died from injuries sustained during her arrest.

Amini’s death sparked outrage in Iran and internationally. Many Iranians saw it as an appalling example of excessive force by the morality police and the oppressive mandatory hijab laws. For decades, Iranian women have risked arrest, fines, and imprisonment for defying the compulsory dress code by allowing their hair or bodies to show in public. Amini’s death seemed to exemplify the unjust policing of women’s bodies and restrictions on personal freedoms.

Timeline of Events After Mahsa Amini’s Death

  • September 17 – Protests erupt in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan and spread to Tehran and other cities. Women are seen burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in defiance.
  • September 19 – Amini’s funeral draws thousands of mourners chanting anti-government slogans. Protests intensify with clashes between protesters and security forces.
  • September 21 – The death toll from protests rises to at least 17 as internet outages are reported across Iran.
  • September 26 – Over 70 universities hold strikes and protests against Amini’s death and repression of women. Schoolgirls remove their hijabs and join in demonstrations.

Reasons for Animosity Towards Amini

Despite Amini being viewed by many as an innocent victim, she has also been the target of hostility in Iran and beyond. Here are some of the main reasons people have expressed hatred or anger towards her:

Viewed as a Rebellion Symbol

For conservatives in Iran who support the mandatory hijab laws, Amini has come to symbolize dangerous rebellion against the Islamic Republic’s values and clerical rule. Her uncovered hair is seen as a provocation that threatens the moral fabric of society. These segments view her as a radical figure destabilizing the nation, rather than as a victim.

Resentment of Foreign Attention

Amini’s death brought intense global backlash and condemnation of Iran’s human rights record. Some Iranians resent the flooding of foreign media attention, seeing it as inflated outrage exploiting an internal issue to vilify Iran on the world stage. There is animosity towards Amini for unintentionally inviting this outside scrutiny.

Kurdish Ethnicity Backlash

Amini’s Kurdish ethnicity also plays a role in breeding resentment. Long-oppressed Kurdish minority groups in Iran are mobilizing around her death, sparking a xenophobic backlash from some segments of Persian-majority Iranians and claims that Kurdish groups are hijacking the protests for their own agendas.

Anger at Economic Disruption

The turmoil and widespread strikes following Amini’s death have brought the Iranian economy near standstill. This economic disruption has fueled public anger towards the protests in general, and by extension towards Amini as their instigating symbol.

Accusations of Hypocrisy

Some Iranians accuse the authorities of hypocrisy for tolerating hijab defiance for years until a high-profile death forced their hand. This breeds resentment towards Amini for triggering a crackdown others avoided facing before. Her motivations are questioned – was she making a calculated political statement to provoke arrest?

Blaming the Victim Mentality

Sadly, blaming the victim is a common response to injustice. Rather than faulting authoritarian policies, some fundamentally blame Amini for resisting them. They accuse her of deliberately flouting the law and disrespecting societal norms. From this perspective, she invited her own demise and does not deserve the ensuing uproar.

Voices of Animosity Towards Amini

To illustrate why hostility plagues public opinion of Amini, here are quotes from various Iranian officials, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens criticizing her:

“Mahsa Amini’s death was a pretext for unrest. This rioting was planned by foreign enemies to destabilize the Islamic Republic.” – Senior Iranian commander

“Amini committed an offense by violating hijab laws and disrespecting our Islamic values. Her reckless behavior precipitated a national crisis.” – Iranian Member of Parliament

“By removing her hijab in public, Amini deliberately staged an episode to undermine the state. She carries responsibility for the aftermath.” – Iranian seminarian

“My business is failing because of these useless protests over one girl’s death. Who cares what she did or didn’t wear on her head?” – Tehran shop owner

“These Kurdish groups have hijacked Mahsa’s death to sow ethnic discord. They are manipulating Iranian women to serve their separatist agenda.” – Conservative journalist

“That woman knew violating hijab laws would get her arrested, yet she did it anyway. She has only herself to blame for provoking the police.” – Iranian grandmother

As seen above, vilification of Amini serves to shift blame away from the authorities and discredit the reform movement she has come to represent against the mandatory hijab.

Broader Context of Women’s Rights in Iran

While Amini’s death sparked the protests, it reflects a much larger struggle for Iranian women’s rights and freedoms spanning decades.

History of Repression

  • 1979 – Islamic Revolution brings clerical rule and sweeping reversals of women’s rights. Strict mandatory veiling laws are imposed.
  • 1980s – “Morality police” units begin enforcing hijab compliance through warnings, fines, arrests.
  • 1983 – Legal marriage age for girls reduced from 18 to 9. Later raised to 13.
  • 1990s-2000s – Backlash against increasingly oppressive laws restricting women grows. “Bad hijab” grabs police attention.
  • July 2022 – Conservatives tighten enforcement of hijab laws, arresting dozens.

Ongoing Discrimination

  • Compulsory hijab from puberty onward under threat of arrest
  • Bans on women attending sports matches
  • Barriers to accessing divorce and child custody rights
  • Restricted access to higher education programs and career paths
  • Testimony valued less than men’s in courts

Signs of Defiance

Despite repressive laws, Iranian women have found ways to resist and speak out, with Amini’s death the latest flashpoint.

  • Women finding ways to subtly shorten hijab, show more hair
  • Prominent hijab protests over the decades despite arrests
  • Campaigns against compulsory veiling laws gaining momentum in recent years
  • Clandestine schools for girls spreading literacy and education
  • Women openly singing and dancing in videos despite bans
  • Hashtag campaigns to raise awareness of oppression

So while many now vilify Amini in death, she reflects a much broader struggle against deep-seated misogyny and tireless efforts toward women’s liberation in Iran.


Mahsa Amini’s tragic death in police custody has made her an incendiary symbol in Iran’s ongoing struggles over human rights and gender equality. While many Iranians and international observers see her as an innocent victim of brutality and oppression, she has also become an object of animosity for some segments of Iranian society and the theocratic state.

Reactionary views blame Amini’s defiance of mandatory veiling laws for her own demise and the resulting destabilization of Iran rather than systemic repression of women. Her Kurdish ethnicity, the foreign attention surrounding her case, and economic impacts of ensuing protests have also bred resentment.

But despite hostility in some corners, Amini’s death has mobilized thousands in demanding an end to the state’s control over women’s bodies and freedoms. Though the road ahead is uncertain, many hope Amini’s legacy can spark real reforms rather than just serving as another martyr claimed by Iran’s embattled women’s rights movement.

Frequently Asked Questions

When and how did Mahsa Amini die?

Mahsa Amini died on September 16, 2022 while in police custody in Tehran. She was arrested 3 days prior by Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely. She collapsed at a police station and died 3 days later. Her death was officially ruled as a heart attack but eyewitnesses say she was severely beaten by police.

Why was she arrested?

Amini was arrested for not complying with Iran’s mandatory veiling laws. These laws require all women in public places to completely cover their hair and adhere to strict Islamic dress codes or face punishment. Amini was accused of wearing her hijab too loosely over her hair.

How did people react to her death?

Her death sparked mass protests across Iran, with women burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in defiance. People saw her death as an appalling example of excessive force by morality police and the oppression of women’s rights. Protests demanding an end to compulsory veiling quickly spread across the country.

Why do some Iranians resent the protests over her death?

Some segments resent the floods of foreign media coverage and condemnations of Iran they feel her death provoked. They accuse protestors of economic disruption or using Amini’s death to advance political agendas. Hardline supporters of mandatory veiling blame her for provoking her own death by defying hijab laws.

How does Amini’s death reflect the broader struggle for women’s rights in Iran?

While sparking the current outrage, Amini’s death reflects a long history of repressive veiling laws and women fighting for rights and freedoms in Iran. Despite systematic discrimination and arrests spanning decades, women continue to boldly protest, speak out, and subtly defy oppressive gender laws enforcing compulsory hijab.

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