Death of Mahsa Amini in Iran sparks protests in Canada, globally

Across Canada and around the world, protesters stood shoulder to shoulder on Saturday in solidarity for women’s rights and freedom in Iran, as the country enters its third consecutive week of roiling protests spurred by the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody.

From Vancouver to Halifax, tens of thousands took to Canadian streets this weekend. In Richmond Hill, Ont., protestors flooded down Yonge St., concluding with a rally outside of a library, some holding signs with slogans including “Free Iran.”

In Halifax, hundreds marched through the streets, waving flags and signs, calling for justice.

“All they want are humanitarian rights,” Iranian-Canadian Siavesh Farrahi told CTV News Atlantic. “We want women’s rights. So that’s all we want, and we need the Canadian peoples’ support.”

In addition to the rallies here in Canada, people protested in major cities around the world. Chants could be heard all the way from London to Sydney.

And at every rally, one name was repeated: Mahsa Amini.

Amini is the 22-year old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died last month after being detained by the Islamic Republic’s morality police.

She was arrested simply because her headscarf was allegedly too loose — a violation of the strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

“It really breaks my heart when I think about the situation, because she had her whole life in front of her,” Diako Aili, Amini’s cousin told CNN.

Amini’s death in police custody has sparked fierce public protest in Iran, beginning at Amini’s funeral and spreading across Iran’s 31 provinces, with protestors demanding Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s downfall.

Many of the demonstrators are women, who are often seen boldly removing their hijabs in defiance of the strict laws that were used to arrest Amini. Women are required to have their hair covered in public in Iran, and so some of the demonstrations have seen protestors burning their hijabs and publicly cutting off their hair.

But this defiance has unleashed a harsh response from Iranian security forces. Amnesty International has said that government crackdown has led to the death of at least 52 people, and hundreds more are injured.

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, calls the protests unacceptable chaos that is in need of quelling.

He also alleges they’re fuelled by the self-interest of foreign countries like the United States.

But those who joined in on today’s global protests say they’re standing in solidarity with not only Iranian women, but all those who have been deprived of human rights.

“As Iran’s regime shuts off the internet in the country and kills protesters indiscriminately, the people of Iran have repeatedly asked that the international community be their voice and amplify their demands,” Iranian-Canadians for Justice & Human Rights said in a press release for Toronto`s march. “This event is intended to loudly echo their voice.”

“It’s not just about the hijab, it’s about the body — they want to control and oppress all the women, to control the country,” said activist Azin Rezaeian in an Ottawa rally earlier this week. 

As for today’s global protests, it’s estimated people in more than 150 cities participated — a mass show of support for those fighting for freedom in Iran.

With files from CNN, CTV News Toronto and CTV News Atlantic. 

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