Mahsa Amini, aged just 22, died in Tehran’s Kasra Hospital yesterday, September 16, after being detained by Iran's “morality police” for bad hijab and suffering injuries in detention. Her family has been pressured to bury her in silence in Kurdistan to avoid “chaos” in the capital. But the below account from citizen journalist Arezou Rahimi shows that crowds have already gathered in response to Amini’s death.
A few minutes after we heard the news that Mahsa Amini, the young woman who fell into a coma after she was beaten by the morality patrol, had died, we dressed in black and departed by motorcycle for Argentina Square where Kasra Hospital is located.
We seemed at first to be the only ones who had decided to go to the square. There was no one else – I could not see anyone who might have been there to protest or for a rally. Little by little, however, a number of families arrived and stood outside the hospital. And, like us, they were dressed in black.
But security agents had arrived before all of us and were stationed outside the hospital. They had surrounded every centimeter of the streets and alleys around Argentina Square.
For me as a woman, one sight was truly nauseating; female agents in full chador, and wearing masks. You could see them everywhere across Argentina Square, in the alleyways, next to the gutter, around parked cars and opposite the hospital.
I wondered if one of them was the agent who had beaten Mahsa – wearing a mask so that she would not be recognized. We once used these masks to be safe from coronavirus but now these people use them to escape recognition and accountability by people who tell them “We hate you!”
A few middle-aged women were also sitting in Argentina Square. Baton-wielding agents approached them and told them to stand and to move on. The authorities were even banning the gathering of three or four older women in the square.
We rode our motorbike past an old man who was sitting by himself, minding his own business, listening to the patriotic song “Tulips Grow from the Blood of the Youth of the Homeland”. The agents, with their batons, approached him and shouted at him to stop the song and leave the area.
A few families with their children drove their cars close to the hospital, saying that they wanted to visit it, but now there were almost ten times as many agents as passers-by.
No one who had gathered dared to say anything at first. But then about 20 young people close to Cinema Azadi began to chant. “We are all together!” they said. “Let's act together!”
A plainclothes agent was in the crowd and filming everyone. We circled behind him and saw that he was zooming his mobile phone camera on people’s faces. We quickly moved on. I spotted him trying to film the license plate of our motorcycle but I covered it with my bag. We later saw that there were many plainclothes agents who were surveilling the crowd.
The number of people in the square grew, little by little. We were mourners who dared not mourn.