Washington, D.C. – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned Iran’s religious police for the death of 22-year-old Zhina (Mahsa) Amini. Following her arrest in Tehran for improperly wearing a hijab in compliance with religiously-grounded laws, authorities detained and interrogated Amini at the Vozara detention center. There, she experienced blows to the head while under interrogation and reportedly suffered a stroke or heart attack. She was taken to Kasra Hospital but died days later. Iran’s government has used force against scores of Iranians protesting Amini’s death and Iran’s laws requiring head coverings for women.
“Mahsa Amini’s horrific death is a culmination of months of violent Iranian government repression of women on the basis of religion,” said USCIRF commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum. “Those responsible for her death must be held accountable. Furthermore, we urge President Biden to unreservedly condemn Iran for its violent and systematic attacks on women like Ms. Amini for wearing an 'improper hijab,' and other egregious violations of religious freedom, in his upcoming U.N. General Assembly speech.”
Since 1979, Iran’s government has mandated that women wear a hijab, citing its interpretation of religious conceptions of modesty as grounds to legally force women to cover their hair in public. In late 2021, Iran’s government produced a policy document detailing plans to more strictly enforce these rules against women deemed to be covering their hair in an improper manner. In July 2022, security forces announced the beginning of these crackdowns, during which authorities harassed, shoved into vans, arrested, and tortured under interrogation scores of women.
“It is outrageous that wearing a loose hijab in Iran can be grounds for this kind of state violence,” said USCIRF Commissioner Eric Ueland. “Vozara detention center officials must be held accountable for these brazen attacks on women exercising their freedom of religion or belief. Iran’s government, as a member of the United Nations, must also, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, respect the right of protestors to peacefully express their views against mandatory religious head covering.”
In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. USCIRF recently published a country update on religious freedom conditions in Iran so far in 2022, held a hearing on “State-Sanctioned Religious Freedom Violations and Coercion by Saudi Arabia and Iran,” highlighted the situation for religious prisoners of conscience in Iran on an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight Podcast, and published a report on Religious Propaganda in Iran.