LONDON (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered in central London Saturday to mark the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran last year, sparking protests around the world against the country’s conservative party. Islamic theocracy.
Singing “Women! Life! Freedom!” The crowd held her portrait and gathered around the memory of a young woman who died on September 16, 2022, after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory veil law. Similar protests took place in Italy, Germany and France.
“We ask everyone to remember the victims, but also to continue the fight, because this fight must reach the end. Mahsa Jina Amini and many others cannot have died in vain,” said Maryam Namazie, an Iranian human rights activist in the UK. “We must have a better society as a result of this enormous and Herculean struggle.”
In Iran, authorities sought to prevent the anniversary from reigniting the protests that gripped the country last year. Amini’s father was arrested outside his home after the family said they wanted to gather at her grave for a traditional remembrance service, Kurdish rights group Hengaw said. People in central Tehran have reported a heavy security presence, and security forces have been seen in western Iran, where the Kurdish minority staged large protests last year.
Hengaw reported a general strike spreading across Kurdish areas on Saturday, circulating videos and photos that appeared to show largely empty streets and closed shops. Human rights activists in Iran, another group that closely follows events in the country, also reported the general strike. There was no coverage of the strike in state media.
Videos on social media showed tear gas being fired in Mashhad and Karaj, a satellite city of Tehran. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran also reported the use of tear gas. Iranian state media has not acknowledged such incidents.
Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman from the western region, died three days after being arrested by morality police, allegedly for violating laws requiring women to cover their hair in public. While authorities said she had a heart attack, Amini’s supporters said she was beaten by police and died from her injuries.
His death triggered protests that spread across the country and quickly escalated to calls for the overthrow of Iran’s four-decade-old Islamic theocracy.
According to rights groups, authorities responded with a violent crackdown in which more than 500 people were killed and more than 22,000 detained. Demonstrations largely calmed down earlier this year, but widespread signs of discontent still remain. For several months, women could be seen openly flaunting the headscarf rule in Tehran and other cities, prompting a new crackdown over the summer.
Activists around the world have sought to renew protests on the anniversary of Amini’s death.
Around 100 protesters gathered outside the Iranian embassy in Rome on Saturday under the banner “Women, life, freedom”.
“Now it is important that the whole world starts demonstrating in the streets again, because what we want is to isolate this regime and in particular we want to push all states not to have political and economic agreements with Iran”, protested Lucia Massi. she said.
In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that a garden in the French capital now bears the name Amini. The mayor called Amini a heroine of the Iranian resistance and said Paris “honors her memory and her fight, as well as those of the women fighting for their freedom in Iran and elsewhere.”
The Villemin Garden which now also bears the name Amini is located in the 10th district of Paris, near a canal with popular boat rides for tourists.
Iran has blamed last year’s protests on the United States and other foreign powers, without providing evidence, and has since sought to downplay the unrest even as it moves to prevent any resurgence.
The protests have been fueled in part by the widespread economic pain Iranians have suffered since President Donald Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran. But that suffering may also have made it difficult to sustain prolonged demonstrations, as many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.
President Joe Biden released a lengthy statement Friday acknowledging the anniversary of Amini’s death, and the United States announced new sanctions against Iranian officials and entities. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also marked the anniversary and imposed new sanctions on Iranian officials.
Soheila Sokhanvari, an Iranian-British artist, moved to the UK to study a year before the 1979 revolution that brought Iran’s conservative Islamic leaders to power. Last year she was in London preparing a solo exhibition on pre-revolutionary feminist icons when she heard of Amini’s death.
The protests that followed marked the first time the world saw “a revolution instigated by women,” she told The Associated Press earlier this month.
“But I think what is really important in this protest is that Iranian men, for the first time in the history of Iran, are actually standing with women, supporting them and showing respect for women,” she said. “It is very original and has never happened in the history of Iran.”
Associated Press writers Kwiyeon Ha in London, Paolo Santalucia in Rome, John Leicester in Le Pecq, France and Emily Schultheis in Berlin contributed to this report.