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Denver metro Iranians outraged after 22-year-old woman dies in custody of Iran's 'morality police'

Denver American Iranians outraged after 22-year-old woman dies in custody of Iran's 'morality police'
Posted at 7:46 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 21:47:14-04

DENVER — The death of 22-year-old Masha Amini, who was taken into custody by Iran's "morality police" in Tehran for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly, has caused outrage across the globe. Protests calling for basic freedoms and more rights for women in the country continued Thursday.

Amini's family says she died last week after being beaten by the morality police, a branch of Iran's government which the U.S. Department of State says "arrests women for wearing "inappropriate'" hijab and enforces other restrictions on freedom of expression."

While Iran faces international criticism, including sanctions imposed by the U.S., Amini's death has forced several of the thousands of American Iranians in the Denver metro to reflect on their escape from Iran during the 1979 Islamic revolution, the major turning point of societal laws and freedoms.

Pantea Beigi, a women's rights and equity researcher who lives in Denver, said the morality police was made to police women's bodies.

Beigi and her family, who are also human rights activists, left Iran several years after the revolution.

"Growing up in that environment was frightening as a child to go outside with my mother, because I know at any moment I could be separated from her and she could be pushed into a van and I would never see her again," Beigi said. "I, myself, have, on several occasions, received a noise violation citation because I was laughing too loud."

Amini's death is the most recent incident to spur action by Iran's citizens, but police beatings have been a reality for thousands of Iranian women for years.

"It makes us very sad. It just brings back all the memories," Denver metro resident Nushin Farjadi said.

Farjadi told Denver7 she was also detained by the morality police in the same town as Amini when she was nearly the same age.

"My offense was that a little bit of my hair was showing through the veil that I was wearing," she said.

Farjadi said she was placed in a van with other women detained for dress code violations and taken to a holding facility to be processed overnight. She befriended her fellow female detainees, and was forced to watch their beatings.

"They found out that it was my first offense, so they didn't lash me," Farjadi said. "I had to either sit or stand there and watch over 100 other women get beaten, from 10 lashes all the way to 150 lashes depending on how many times they had been arrested in the past. It was horrendous. It was one of the most impactful experiences of my life."

These memories serve as a constant reminder that the freedoms she now has in America should never be taken for granted — freedoms citizens of Iran have been risking their lives protesting for amid several days of continuous demonstrations.

Former DU professor of Islamic sociology, Esmail Nooriala said the current protests are unlike anything he's seen before.

"The people [protesting] in the streets are between 15 to 25 years old," Nooriala said. "They are living in the age of information. They know what is happening all over the world in developed civilized societies. So they ask themselves, "Why are we so entangled with this regime?""

Fueling their outcry for basic freedoms is the continuous decline of their economy.

"People are deprived from the power of purchasing things. The prices are so high, and there is no jobs left in Iran," Nooriala said. "So there are a lot of anger to them. Hopelessness — that is what was absent before, and it is a very new element of the protests and it is so powerful. They say that we are fed up with this government and we want to get rid of it."

In response to the protests in Iran, Governor Jared Polis' office issued a statement to Denver7:

"Governor Polis condemns the brutal oppression of women in Iran and is working to expand the freedoms of Coloradans. As an American, he is encouraged by the brave Iranians rejecting authoritarianism and supporting the right of women to wear want they want to when they want to."