Has anything changed in Iran a year after Mahsa Amini’s death?

Updated Sep 15, 2023, 1:24pm EDT
Newspapers, with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, are seen in Tehran, Iran September 18, 2022.
Majid Asgaripour/WANA via REUTERS/File Photo
Middle East
J.D. Capelouto/

Saturday marks one year since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She was arrested for allegedly breaking the government’s strict hijab rule, and her death led to widespread opposition protests and an increased crackdown on dissent.

More protests are planned around the anniversary of Amini's death, and Iranians are expecting the country's ruling regime to clamp down on unrest, including checkpoints, internet disruptions, and arrests of activists and lawyers. Firuzeh Mahmoudi, who leads the U.S.-based nonprofit United for Iran, told Semafor that "people are passing out flyers everywhere" encouraging turnout at protests all over the country, though it remains to be seen how long the protests last, and how intense they get. "I'm sure we're going to see both inspiring takes and heartbreak on the streets."

One year later, many Iranian women continue to flout the country's dress code rules, and activists continue to make protest songs, even after the morality police returned in July to enforce the mandatory hijab rules.1 With most of its population under 30 years old, Iran will continue to see a "persistent rejection" of the existing establishment, but any move toward change will be "far from smooth" given the regime's attempts to suppress dissent, the Atlantic Council's Masoud Mostajabi said.2

One Iranian woman who doesn't wear her head scarf in public wrote that she's anxious leading up to the anniversary and feels "alone" on the streets. "We are far from finished," she wrote, remarking that shops have been told to close early this week so protesters don't take refuge in them.3 Another protester wrote: "We will never put back on the headscarves we burnt. We will keep fighting for all the dreams they took from us."4

The governments of the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Australia announced a new wave of coordinated sanctions against Iran and several officials on Friday, to mark Amini's death. The head of a human rights group recently said that the international community "must remain extraordinarily vigilant, warning the Iranian authorities of intense political and economic consequences at the first sign of state violence."5 Meanwhile, the U.S. took steps this week to execute a prisoner swap with Iran that involves the U.S. unlocking $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds.6