Mahsa (Zhina) Amini was a 22- year-old Kurdish Iranian woman whose death in custody following her arrest by Iran’s “morality police” sparked continuing mass protests across Iran. Mahsa was arrested on September 13 in Tehran for allegedly not following the country’s dress code for women. According to media reports, she was tortured while in custody, an allegation the police deny. She was taken to Kasra Hospital in Tehran where she remained in a coma until pronounced dead on September 16.
The Iranian authorities maintain that Mahsa suffered a heart attack, an account that is not accepted by her family. When her body was taken to her hometown of Saqqez, people were waiting to support the family at the funeral. This gathering was the starting point for the mass protests across Iran. Protesters gathered in the streets carrying posters and shouting the slogans, “Woman, Life, Freedom”, and “Down with the Dictator!”
The authorities have brutally cracked down on protests — unofficial reports claim many people have been killed or injured and thousands have been arrested. Last week, media reports raised concerns over widespread internet outages and restricted internet services which severely affected access to information regarding the government’s brutal response.
Initial reports suggest that at least 13 were killed and many others were injured following Iranian missiles and drone attacks on the Kurdistan region of Iraq on 28 September. Iranian authorities claim that the attacks targeted Kurdish groups behind the widespread protests that followed Mahsa’s death.
For the past four decades, Iran’s regime has maintained its grip on the country through mass killing, torture, imprisonments, censorship, and curtailing of essential freedoms. Political activists, writers, poets, artists, workers, teachers, and students have been arrested, tortured, and killed.
We, the members of PEN International at the 88th Congress, together in Uppsala, Sweden, strongly condemn the brutal crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran. We stand in solidarity with the women and people of Iran in their fight for freedom and justice and support their demands for a future without tyranny and dictatorship.
We call for an immediate halt to military strikes, an end to the crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran, and demand that Mahsa’s killers be brought to justice.