Ladies in Saskatoon reduce their hair, becoming a member of worldwide protest of girl’s loss of life in Iran

The women stand next to each other, holding their hair, and then they begin cutting it with scissors.

On Thursday, women in Saskatoon joined women in Iran and around the world who are cutting their hair in public to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in custody after Iran’s morality police arrested her for not adequately covering her hair.

The women’s action in Saskatoon was part of a protest and memorial for Amini organized at the University of Saskatchewan campus.

“People here are looking for justice,” said Tiam Kazemi, who took part in the protest Thursday.

“They are more than that looking for a change of regime because we just had enough of many young people dying under these investigations by the police who are supposed to bring safety for our country, not death.”

‘People here are looking for justice,’ protester Tiam Kazemi said at a rally at the University of Saskatchewan to protest the death of Mahsa Amini. (CBC Saskatchewan)

Iran’s morality police arrested Amini last week for allegedly wearing the hijab improperly, showing too much of her hair. She fell into a coma and died while in custody. 

Iranian authorities deny any wrongdoing, saying Amini died of a heart attack. However, her family says she was in good health, and that she suffered bruises to her legs while in custody. 

The headscarf has been mandatory for women in Iran since after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and members of the morality police enforce the strict dress code.

“For 43 years the Islamic Republic has been oppressing Iranian women and violating their rights and the world has remained silent,” human rights activist Azam Jangravi said in an interview with Saskatoon Morning.

Jangravi was arrested in Iran in 2018 for removing her hijab in an act of protest. She was sentenced to three years in prison, but was able to escape to Canada with her daughter.

“Iranian people are angry,” she said. “And you can’t even imagine that we don’t have any rights, from the right to choose clothing to rights [of] divorce and even child custody. Every Iranian woman wants to have freedom.”

Saskatoon Morning8:32Iranian Cultural Association in Saskatoon holds memorial for woman whose death sparked protests in Iran

A Saskatoon man originally from Iran is paying close attention as protests erupt in the middle-eastern country. Those demonstrations follow the death of a 22-year-old woman who was in police custody. Guest host Heather Morrison speaks with a woman who had to flee Iran, and hears about a memorial for Mahsa Amini being held in Saskatoon.

‘Acts of chaos’ 

In a reaction to the widespread protests in Iran, the country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, said on Thursday that “acts of chaos” are not acceptable, in a warning to protesters who have taken to the streets to vent their fury over Amini’s death .

Kazemi says she hopes those protesting in Iran will be aware of the support in Saskatoon.

“I don’t know how many times people were protesting [over the] past few years, but we are hoping that this is the last one,” she said.

“We are hoping that this is the last one. We are hoping that this one changes everything, and people will become free finally … We want to be there on the street fighting with the people, but we just got lucky that we’re not Mahsa.”

People at the Saskatoon demonstration were holding up signs and flyers, one of them saying “We Are Humans Not Hashtags.” Mahsa Amini’s death sparked worldwide protests, outrage and a global call for change in Iran. (CBC Saskatchewan)

Bijan Arab shares the feeling of wanting to help, but knows the limitations of doing that while living outside of Iran.

The president of the Saskatoon Iranian Cultural Association was one of the organizers of the memorial for Amini in front of the Graduate Students’ Association at the U of S.

It has not easy for him to watch the videos from his former home country, Arab says.

“I was sad, at the same time I was mad … that I’m not there, I cannot help the people in Iran,” he said ahead of the demonstration and memorial on Thursday. “But then I realized that the best thing is that, you know, to show our support from here.”

A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, the woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s ‘morality police.’ (Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters)

A rally in response to the death of Amini is planned for Friday afternoon at the University of Regina.

At least nine people have died in Iran in clashes between security forces and protesters, according to a tally from The Associated Press. 

An anchor on Iran’s state television suggested Thursday that the death toll from the mass protests could be as high as 17, but he did not say how he reached that figure.

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