March 8, 2023

By Victoria Bisset and Naomi Schanen

The Washington Post

As the world marks International Women’s Day on Wednesday, the United Nations has warned that the world is 300 years away from gender equality, with hard-won progress toward the goal “vanishing before our eyes.”

Women protest in Iran

In September, a young Kurdish woman was detained in Tehran after allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code. Days later, the 22-year-old died in custody — allegedly after being beaten by police.

Mahsa Amini’s death unleashed a wave of protests under the slogan “Women, life, freedom,” which came to express decades of discontent not only with the country’s veiling laws but with the ruling system itself. Not for the first time in Iran’s history, women have taken an active role in the protests.

But the protesters have paid a high price: According to the activist news agency HRANA, at least 530 people had been killed and more than 19,000 arrested through Feb. 21. Although the demonstrations have continued for months, they have so far not brought any concrete changes, while the government has intensified its crackdown against protesters.

More recently, there have been reports of hundreds of students — the vast majority of them girls — falling ill from suspected poisonings at schools across Iran. It’s unclear who is behind the suspected poisonings, or if they’re connected to the protests, but authorities have ordered an investigation. Iran’s supreme leader said this week that if the poisonings are deliberate, it would be an “unforgivable crime” deserving the death penalty.