Mahsa Amini, who was 22 at the time of her death, was arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s so-called morality police for an alleged breach of the country’s compulsory hijab laws and died in police custody Sept. 16 last year under suspicious circumstances.
Shortly after her passing, protests against the Iranian regime and its violence against women sparked in cities across Iran, and Mahsa quickly became the face of an anti-regime movement that protesters have sustained since September of last year.
The protests have been met with prolonged internet blackouts and violent attempts at repression from the Iranian government — Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 500 people have been killed or executed during the past year’s protests, including 69 children.
Members of the Iranian diaspora in cities around the world have also protested against the Islamic Republic, hoisting photos of Mahsa and other protesters in the air while chanting the movement’s slogan: “Women, Life, Freedom.”
President Joe Biden released a statement commemorating Mahsa’s death Friday, expressing solidarity with the Iranian people’s movement and committing to “standing with them.”
“As we have seen over the last year, Mahsa’s story did not end with her brutal death. She inspired a historic movement—Woman, Life, Freedom—that has impacted Iran and influenced people across the globe who are tirelessly advocating for gender equality and respect for their human rights. In the face of continued oppression and violence, the citizens of Iran remain committed to this movement and to their fight for a free and democratic future,” Biden said.
The Biden administration also announced new sanctions against more than two dozen “entities and individuals involved in repression in Iran,” and vowed to continue imposing sanctions in response to the country’s human rights violations and its military support for Russia in the war against Ukraine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed the new sanctions in a strongly worded statement released Friday.
“The United States has joined countries around the world in supporting the Iranian people in their pursuit of justice, accountability, and respect for their human rights — during the protests and throughout the last year,” Blinken said.
Despite Blinken’s assurances that the U.S. government has been working to support the Iranian people in the face of brutal oppression, some Iranian activists still claim that the U.S. isn’t doing enough.
This week, activists expressed frustration at Biden’s deal to bring back five U.S. citizens detained in Iran in exchange for five Iranian nationals in U.S. custody as well as restricted access by Tehran to $6 billion in previously frozen Iranian funds. The prisoner exchange could happen in the coming days.
Activist Masih Alinejad, who has faced numerous threats against her life from the Iranian regime, quoted Blinken’s post Friday, saying the U.S. “didn’t take appropriate actions” against Iran following Mahsa’s death.
“No, Secretary Blinken!” Alinejad wrote. “Unfortunately, the US government didn’t take appropriate actions against the killer of Mahsa Jina Amini: It is heartbreaking that right on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder at the hands of the morality police, America has given a gift to the gender apartheid regime in the form of $6 billion, as well as visas for the killers of Mahsa.”
Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.