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On Sept. 13, a beautiful 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, was arrested in Tehran and brutally beaten by “morality police” for wearing her hijab “too loosely,” perhaps allowing a few strands of hair to show through. She was overwhelmed by both male and female brutes and thugs, beaten mercilessly, thrown into a van and driven to some unknown place—most probably the notorious Evin prison, where she was undoubtedly raped and tortured.

Next thing we knew, she was in a coma. As I write this three days later, we know she is dead. Her family was told by the Iranian regime that she died of “epilepsy or a heart attack,” medical conditions that apparently emerged out of nowhere. Even if the regime’s claim is true, it is difficult to believe this “epilepsy or a heart attack” was not caused by the brutal blows to the head and body Mahsa received from her attackers.

None of us know how many anonymous Mahsa Aminis there have been since the 1979 Islamic revolution, but we can be sure that there have been thousands of them, if not more. Witness what Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi did when he presided over the infamous 1988 “Death Commissions,” which sentenced 5,000 men, women and children to death. The “trials” lasted no more than a few minutes, and then the innocent victims were taken out to the courtyard to be hanged. Raisi was so gleeful about his verdicts that he insisted on being there to witness the executions. There were so many victims of his hangings that they had to loaded onto forklifts six at a time.

What made Mahsa’s story go viral is that someone filmed it and posted it on Twitter, causing protests to flare up throughout Iran and prompting some international sympathy. Incredibly courageous Persian women, in the name of Mahsa, are removing their hijabs in public, some openly burning them or filming themselves cutting off their hair.

Mahsa was from the Kurdish region of Saqez, where some of the most violent protests are now taking place. This region, composed largely of Sunni Muslims, has long been the target of discrimination by Iran’s Shiite Muslim majority. Teachers there have been imprisoned by the regime simply for teaching the Kurdish language, which is outlawed in Iran. There are a disproportionate number of Kurds languishing in Iranian prisons. As far as we know, at the moment of this writing, five Kurdish protesters have been killed so far.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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