In the video, a large crowd cheers as a woman raises a pair of scissors to cut into her hair – exposed with no headscarf in sight. The sea of people, many of them men, growled as she cut off her ponytail and raised her fist in the air.
It was a powerful act of defiance on Tuesday night in the Iranian city of Kerman, where women were required to wear headscarves in public – just one of many protests across the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini – on The elderly woman who died in police custody.
Thousands took to the streets on Tuesday night, Videos of protests have surfaced in dozens of towns, from the capital Tehran to more traditional conservative strongholds such as Mashad.
The video showed some protesters chanting “women, life, freedom”. Others can also be seen setting bonfires, wrestling with police, or removing and burning their headscarves – as well as vandalizing posters of the country’s top leader and chanting “death to the dictator”.
In a video from Tehran, young protesters marched around bonfires in the streets at night, chanting: “We are children of war. Come on, fight, we will fight back.”
Demonstrations also took place in almost all provincial towns in Iran’s Kurdish region, including Kermanshah and Hamadan.
The protests are notable for their size, ferocity and rare feminist nature. The last protest of this magnitude was three years ago, when the government raised gas prices in 2019.
Witnesses told CNN that Tuesday night’s demonstrations appeared to be “lightning protests” — meaning groups formed and dispersed quickly to avoid clashes with Iranian security forces after violence escalated last week.
There was at least one incident of a tough police response on Tuesday near Iran’s Enkhlab (“Revolution”) Square on the west side of Tehran University, which has traditionally been a rallying point for protests, a source said.
“Two young men were beaten and beaten by plainclothes and riot police and then dragged into a van in front of the subway entrance,” a witness told CNN. “An injured girl lying on the sidewalk was taken to hospital by ambulance and five others were arrested on the north side of Enkhlab Square.”
At least five protesters have been shot dead during demonstrations in the Kurdish region over the past few days, according to Hengaw Human Rights, a Norwegian-registered group monitoring human rights abuses in Iran.
It said 75 people were injured in other cities over the weekend.
The protests erupted after the death of Amini, who was stopped and detained by Iranian morality police last Tuesday.
Iranian officials said Amini died of a “heart attack” last Friday and fell into a coma after his arrest.
However, her family said she had no pre-existing heart disease, according to Iran’s pro-reform outlet Emtedad news, which claimed to have spoken to Amini’s father.
Redacted security camera footage released by Iranian state media appeared to show Amini collapsing at a “re-education” center, where she was taken to receive “instructions” about her attire.
Iran’s ethics police, part of the country’s law enforcement arm, are tasked with enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict social rules, including a dress code that requires women to wear a headscarf or hijab in public.
An aide to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with her family at Amini’s home on Monday, promising a “thorough investigation” into her death, according to Iran’s semi-official Noor news agency.
According to Noor, Khamenei’s representative in Iran’s Kurdish province, Abdulreza Purzahabi, said the supreme leader was “sad” and that the family’s grief was “his grief as well.”
He added that he hoped the family would show “goodwill to help restore calm to society”.
Also at a news conference on Monday, Greater Tehran police commander Hussein Rahimi denied “false accusations” against Iranian police, saying they “did everything” to keep Amini alive.
He added that Amini was not physically harmed during or after her detention, and called her death “unfortunate.”
Since Amini’s death, internet monitoring site Netblocks has recorded internet outages since Friday — a tactic Iran has previously used to prevent the spread of protests.