Mahsa Amini protests
This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (September 2022)
|Mahsa Amini protests|
|Part of the 2021–2022 Iranian protests, the Iranian democracy movement, Iranian protests against compulsory hijab, and the aftermath of the death of Mahsa Amini|
|Date||16 September 2022 – present|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|Death(s)||At least 76 killed (Iran Human Rights) as of 26th September |
At least 41 killed (state media) as of 24th September
|Arrested||1,200 people (per Tasnim News Agency)|
The Mahsa Amini protests are an ongoing series of protests and civil unrest against the government of Iran that began in Tehran on 16 September 2022. The protests began as a reaction to the death of Mahsa Amini (Persian: مهسا امینی), a 22-year-old Iranian woman who died while in police custody. According to eyewitnesses, she was beaten by the Guidance Patrol, the Islamic "morality police" of Iran, who accused her of wearing an "improper" hijab in violation of Iran's mandatory hijab law. Iranian police have denied that Amini was beaten while she was in custody.
The Mahsa Amini protests began hours after her death in Tehran. Protests first began at the hospital where Amini was treated and then quickly spread to other cities, firstly in Amini's home province of Kurdistan, including in Saqqez, Sanandaj, Divandarreh, Baneh, and Bijar. In response to these demonstrations, beginning on 19 September the Iranian government implemented regional shutdowns of Internet access. As protests grew, a widespread Internet blackout was imposed along with nationwide restrictions on social media. In response to the protests over Amini's death, people held demonstrations in support of the government across several cities in Iran.
As of 26 September 2022[update], at least 76 protestors have been killed as a result of the government's intervention in the protests, involving tear gas and live rounds, making the protests the deadliest since the 2019–2020 protests that resulted in more than 1,500 fatalities. The government's response to the protests has largely been condemned, and the United States Department of the Treasury has sanctioned the Guidance Patrol and several high-ranking Iranian officials.
Iranian protests against compulsory hijab began in 2017. Mahsa Amini was a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who was arrested by the Guidance Patrol on 14 September 2022 because of an "improper hijab." The police were accused of beating her and inflicting a fatal head injury; Amini was pronounced dead on 16 September. After her funeral, protests were held in different parts of Iran. A nationwide strike was later called from Kurdistan Province to Tehran on 18 September. Iranian Kurdistan parties and civil and political activists from Kurdistan declared Monday a general strike day.
Hours after Mahsa Amini died, a group of people gathered to protest her alleged murder near Kasra Hospital, where Amini died. They chanted slogans including "death to the dictator", "Guidance Patrol is a killer", "I will kill, I will kill the one who killed my sister", "I swear by Mahsa's blood, Iran will be free", "Khamenei is a murderer, his government is invalid", and "oppression against women from Kurdistan to Tehran". These protests were met with the suppression and arrest of protesters. A number of women took off and burned their headscarves, and chanted the slogan "Shameless Daesh". Some people honked their car horns in the streets as a protest. Another protest against compulsory hijab-wearing laws took place that evening in Tehran's Argentina Square. Protesters chanted slogans against Iran's president and compulsory hijab-wearing laws. Released videos of the evening show the violent arrest of some of the protesters.
Beginning on Saturday, after Amini's burial, Saqqez, her hometown, and the city of Sanandaj were the scenes of massive demonstrations. In response, the government used violent force to disperse protesters. Following the publication of an image of Amini's tombstone in Saqqez, its inscription became a slogan of the protests:
The people of Sanandaj once again took to the streets on Sunday night to protest against the death of Mahsa. They chanted the slogans "death to the dictator", "shame on us, shame on us / our bastard leader", and "death to Khamenei". As a sign of protest, a group of women took off their hijabs. According to unconfirmed sources quoted by the BBC, security forces fired on the demonstrators. A number of students from Tehran University held a protest rally with placards in their hands. A heavy presence of security forces was reported in Tehran and Mashhad.
On 19 September, the government cut off mobile internet service in central Tehran. According to videos on social media, protests continued in downtown Tehran, the northern city of Rasht, the central city of Isfahan, as well as in Western Kurdish territory. According to Hengaw, a Nordic organization that monitors human rights in Iran, three protesters were killed by security forces in Kurdistan Province.
A 23-year-old man named Farjad Darvishi was killed by police while protesting in the Wali-asr town of Urmia, Iran. He was allegedly shot by police security agents during the demonstration, and died from his wounds on his way to the hospital.
According to the Voice of America, unconfirmed social media videos showed anti-government protests in at least 16 of Iran's 31 provinces, including "Alborz, East Azerbaijan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Isfahan, Kerman, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Mazandaran, Qazvin, Razavi Khorasan, Tehran, and West Azerbaijan." Protesters in Sari appeared to tear down pictures of the Ayatollah and his predecessor from a city building. Iranian state media reported that three people had been killed in Kurdistan protests. According to Hengaw, two male protesters (Zakaria Khial, 16 years old, and Farjad Darvishi, 23 in Piranshahr and Urmia, respectively) were killed by security forces in West Azerbaijan, and a female protester was similarly killed in Kermanshah. The prosecutor in Kermanshah denied state responsibility, stating that people were being killed by "anti-revolutionary elements". Iranian state media reported a police assistant's death from protesters in the southern city of Shiraz. In the city of Kerman, a woman was filmed removing her hijab and cutting off her ponytail during a protest. Some witnesses interviewed by CNN characterized the day's protests as "flash protests" that sought to form and then to disperse quickly before security forces could intervene.
Women in Sari were recorded burning their hijabs in protest. According to Hengaw, a man allegedly shot by security forces on 19 September died two days later. Hengaw stated that a total of ten demonstrators had been killed by security forces; Amnesty International said it had confirmed eight of those deaths. Amnesty International also condemned what it called the "unlawful use of birdshot and other munitions" against the protesters. WhatsApp and Instagram, the only mainstream social media and messaging apps permitted in Iran, were restricted by the government; in addition, there was a widespread internet shutdown, especially on mobile networks. Iran's Basij, a state militia, held pro-government counter-rallies in Tehran. In other countries, demonstrations of solidarity with the protesters occurred, including in Canada, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.
Protesters in Tehran and other cities burned police stations and cars. The protests continued despite widespread internet outages throughout Iran. People in different areas of north and south of the capital, Tehran, continued their protests with different slogans. Iranian state media stated that at least 17 people had been killed to date, while the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights NGO counted at least 31 civilians dead.
In addition and response to a violent police crackdown of protestors, Anonymous made an announcement through Twitter, claiming that the group managed to hack at least 100 Iranian websites (including several belonging to the Iranian government) and compromise over 300 CCTV cameras by exploiting a 5.4 severity score vulnerability.
Protests continued in Tehran, heavy fighting was reported in Isfahan at dusk. Аlso in many other cities including Tehran, Mashhad, and Babol people continued to protest. Universities were closed, and shifted to virtual teaching mode. It was reported that in the city of Oshnavieh, after days of very heavy protesting and clashing, protestors took control of the city; however the Iranian government denied this.
The same day, people in several cities across Iran participated in state-organised pro-government rallies in show of support of the hijab and the government. The rally in Tehran was attended by thousands. According to a live state television broadcast, demonstrators chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", reflecting Iran's official narrative of putting the blame of the unrest on hostile foreign countries. The pro-government demonstrators also vocally expressed their desire for the anti-government protesters to be executed, and referred to the anti-government protesters as "Israel’s soldiers". The government claimed that the rallies were spontaneous. Security forces in Iran always support state-organised gatherings and are widely covered by Iran's state television and media; anti-government protests on the other hand, in which demonstrators chant against the establishment, are not sanctioned and are dispersed by security forces.
The United States Department of State issued a general license allowing corporations access to the Iranian internet market. In response, American entrepreneur Elon Musk said that he would activate his satellite internet firm, Starlink, to provide internet services to Iran. However, the updated license did not cover hardware supplied by Starlink but the firm and similarly others were allowed to apply for permission to the US Treasury.
Heavy protests at the contested city of Oshnavieh continued. Protests also continued in Shiraz and Tehran, in front of Tehran University. Iranians living abroad marched in different cities of the world, including in Erbil, Berlin, Stuttgart, and Melbourne in support of the Iranian people.
Inside Gilan province police and Iranian revolutionary guards arrested 739 people, including at least 60 women. 88 guns were found and confiscated in Khuzestan province. IRGC made multiple arrests in Kerman.
The New York Times reported that security forces were "opening fire on the crowds" in multiple cities, and stated "The videos posted online and the scale of the response from the authorities are difficult to independently verify, but video and photographs sent by witnesses known to The New York Times were broadly in line with the images being posted widely online." The Committee to Protect Journalists reported at least 11 journalists arrested, including Niloofar Hamedi, the reporter who originally broke Mahsa Amini's story.
Protests continued in various parts of the capital of Tehran (Narmak, Ekbatan, Valiasr, Aryashahr), Karaj (Mehrshahr and Gohardasht), Sanandaj, Qaen, Kashmar, and Babol despite the widespread outage of the internet network in Iran. Also, protests against the Iranian government continued in different cities of the world such as London, Brussels, and New York City. A Basij paramilitary member died of injuries he had sustained in Urmia on 22 September, making them one of the several Basijis to have been killed in the demonstrations.
Despite the gathering of Iranian government's supporters in Tehran's Revolution Square and the threat of violent confrontation against the protesters, people came to the streets at night in different areas of Tehran, Bushehr, Sanandaj, Qazvin, Yazd, Urmia, Shiraz, and Mashhad. The police attempted to halt the protests again. Iranians residing in Canada, France, United Kingdom, Norway, and Austria marched in support of the protests.
The protests continued in different cities such as Tehran, Tabriz, Yazd, Ghorveh, Sanandaj, Borazjan and Karaj on 26 September. At this day also Iranian people in different countries like Canada, Spain and France protested in favour of people inside Iran. The dentistry students of Tabriz University gathered and chanted to protest arrest of students by Iran's government police. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the Chief Justice of Iran, said, "[police officers] did not sleep last night and the nights before ... and they must be thanked." On the same day, the Organizing Council of Oil Contract Workers said: "We support the people's struggles against organized and everyday violence against women and against the poverty and hell that dominates the society".
Clashes between riot police and security forces and demonstrators continued in a number of cities. Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, urged Iran's clerical leadership to "fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association". Shamdasani added that reports specify that "hundreds have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists, and at least 18 journalists", and "Thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country over the past 11 days. Security forces have responded at times with live ammunition". The Organizing Council of Oil Contract Workers warned the government that if the crackdown on protestors continues, they will strike, a move which could cripple a major sector of the Iranian economy.
Iran Human Rights confirmed that security forces were firing live ammunition directly at protesters. Iran reported the arrest of Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was the President of Iran from 1989 to 1997.
Iranian riot police were deployed in Tehran's main squares to confront people chanting "death to the dictator". A solidarity protest took place at the Brandenburger Tor, in Berlin, Germany, attended by around 1800 people, including CSU politician Dorothee Bär, and Iranian-German actress Pegah Ferydoni.
Many teachers and professors declared their support for the movement and organized a boycott in response.
- Ammar Ashoori, a professor in the faculty of Arts and Architecture at the Islamic Azad University, stood in solidarity with the protests. He was threatened by the custodian dean of the Faculty of Arts to either take down his posts supporting the protests on social media or face termination.
- Nasrollah Hekmat, professor of Islamic philosophy at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, stated on 27 September that he would not attend his classes in solidarity with the protests.
- Lili Galehdaran, member of the Faculty of Drama of Shiraz Art University, resigned from her position after publishing a letter in which she declared her support for the protests.
- Alireza Bahraini, Shahram Khazaei, and Azin Movahed, professors at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, announced their intention to dismiss their classes in support of the protests.
- Gholamreza Shahbazi, drama professor at the Art University and Soureh University, resigned from his position in support of the protests.
Demonstrators have employed a variety of slogans and placards in these protests, which directly criticize the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its leader, Khamenei. Protesters have shown strong opposition to acts of human rights violations perpetrated by Iran's Guidance Patrol in particular. "Woman, Life, Freedom" (Persian: زن، زندگی، آزادی, romanized: Zan, Zendegī, Āzādī, Kurdish: ژن، ژیان، ئازادی, romanized: Jin, Jiyan, Azadî) is the signature slogan of the protests.
Other popular slogans include:
- "This year is the year of blood, Seyyed Ali will be down!"
- "Four decades of atrocities, shame on this regime!"
- "Our shame, our shame, our despicable leader!"
- "Iranian may die, (but) they won't accept humility"
- "Iranians, it is enough! Show your courage!"
- "Khamenei, the Zahhak! We will drag you under the soil!"
- "A government against women! We don't want [it], we don't want [it]."
- "Iranians! Yell, Shout out your rights!"
- "This is the last message: the target is the regime itself."
- "From Kurdistan to Tehran, violence against women!"
- "Khamenei is a murderer, his vilayat is invalid."
- "Sweat to the blood of Mahsa, Iran will be free!"
- "Death to the dictator"
- "Mojtaba, [we hope] you die, [so] you don't see the leadership."
- "We will die, we will die, [but] we will take Iran back."
- "Unemployment, slavery, women's hijab, forced!"
- "Basiji, go get lost!"
- "Kurdistan, Kurdistan, eye and light of Iran!"
- "Azerbaijan is awake, it is the refuge of Kurdistan!"
- "I swear by Mahsa's blood, Iran will be free"
- "Oppression against women from Kurdistan to Tehran"
On 20 September, Iranian governor confirmed the first three deaths in the protests, saying however that they were not killed by security forces. As of 26 September, a count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 13 dead, while State TV suggested that at least 41 have been killed, including protesters and police. Five Basij members have reportedly been killed by protesters.
According to Iran Human Rights, as of 26 September, at least 76 people had been killed, including 6 women and 4 children. Hundreds of women have been detained and abused by the authorities. Death certificates obtained by the organization confirm that many have died from live bullets. The authorities are also using torture and ill-treatment to obtain false confessions from protestors who had been arrested. The Oslo-based human rights organization however stated that with the current Internet blackouts, it was difficult to get accurate and up-to-date figures. Name and date of killing is shown when possible.
|Amol||11||Erfan Rezai (21), Ghazaleh Chelavi (32), Mehdi Fallah, Sina Mousavi|||
|Divandarre||2||Fouad Qadimi, Mohsen Mohammadi||Iran Human Rights Group reports two deaths while other sources report four.|
|Mahabad||1||Hajar Abbasi (70)|
|Urmia||3||Farjad Darvishi, Abdollah Mohammadpur (16), Danesh Rahnama|||
|Karaj||3||Hadis Najafi, Sarina Esmail Zade (16), Ruzbeh Khademi||Hadis Najafi, who took part in the protest action in the city of Karaj, died on the spot after receiving 6 bullet wounds in the chest, face and neck.|
|Piranshahr||1||Zakaria Khyal (16)||Video showing his mother singing a Kurdish lullaby on his grave, calling him a "martyr".|
|Kermanshah||2||Minoo Majidi (55), Reza Shahparnia (20)|||
|Oshnavieh||4||Amin Marefat (16), Milan Haqiqi (21), Sadreddin Litani (27), Danesh Rahnama (25)|||
|Quchan||1||Ali Mozaffari||Saipa Volleyball Team player|
|Bandar Anzali||1||Amir Nowruzi (16)|
|Nowshahr||1||Hananeh Kia||Shot and killed by security agents while returning home from the dentist.|
|Ilam||2||Mohsen Qeysari, Yaser Jafari|||
|Rasht||2||Maziar Salmanian, Behnam Layeqpur||Killed by direct police bullets.|
|Eslamabad-e Gharb||2||Amir Fooladi (15), Saeid Mohammadi (21)|||
|Dehdasht||2||Pedram Azarnoosh, Mehrdad Behnam Asl|
|Hashtgerd||1||Parsa Rezadust (17)|
|Pakdasht||1||Mohammad Reza Eskandari|
|Garmsar||2||Mohammad Hossein Sarvarirad, Mehdi Asgari|
|Rezvanshahr||3||Fariborz Lotfi, Sasan Qorbani, Yasin Jamalzade|
|Zanjan||1||Mahdi Mousavi (16)|
Beginning on 19 September 2022, the Iranian government initially cut off Internet access regionally, in order to prevent images and video of the protests from reaching a world-wide audience, and to discourage protesters from effectively organizing, blocking popular social media channels Instagram and WhatsApp in the cities of Saqqez and Sanandaj for a few days. With the spread of demonstrations throughout over 80 cities across the country, the government of the Islamic Republic shutdown the nation's entire Internet and severely restricted mobile networks. According to Internet monitoring group Netblocks, these are "the most severe internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre", when during the 2019–2020 Iranian protests the Internet was completely shutdown for an entire weeklong period, and 1,500 protesters were killed by government forces.
Prior to the protests, access to social media was already heavily restricted. Facebook, Telegram, TikTok, and Twitter were all previously blocked. Beginning on 21 September 2022, Instagram and WhatsApp were also blocked nationwide. Iranian state media has said the imposed restrictions are due to "national security" concerns. WhatsApp stated that they are working to keep Iranian users connected and would not block Iranian phone numbers. However, multiple monitoring groups have documented rolling connectivity blackouts, affecting Iran's largest mobile carriers, with a "curfew-style pattern of disruptions" that lasts for 12 hours at a time. It has also been reported that text messages are being filtered, and communications which mention Mahsa Amini's name are blocked from delivery to the intended recipient.
Despite the nationwide Internet blackouts, some video of the events are still making it out of the country. A small group of people from both inside and outside of Iran are running the 1500tasvir Instagram account, which has over 450,000 followers. The group says they are receiving more than 1,000 videos every day, and publish dozens of these videos on a daily basis, posting video to their Twitter account as well. One member of the 1500tasvir team noted the impact of Internet shutdowns can be extraordinary, and negatively impact protests, saying that "When you [can] ... see other people feel the same way, you get more brave" but "When the internet is cut off ... you feel alone".
In response to Iran's Internet blackouts, Signal, the end-to-end encrypted messaging app, has asked the tech community and international volunteers to help circumvent the digital blockade by running proxy servers so that people in Iran can communicate safely. In a blog post published on 22 September, the CEO of Signal detailed step-by-step instructions, and has called for a Twitter hashtag campaign to promote the effort. Signal has also published support documents in Persian, specifically to assist users in Iran.
On 22 September, CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour was scheduled to interview Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in New York City, following his appearance at the United Nations general assembly. Amanpour planned to speak with President Raisi about several international issues, including the death of Mahsa Amini and the ensuing protests. The interview would have been the first time Raisi spoke with US media on American soil. Forty minutes after the interview was set to begin and before Raisi arrived, an aide to the Iranian leader made a last-minute request and stated that the meeting would not happen unless Amanpour wore a headscarf, referring to "the situation in Iran" and calling it "a matter of respect". Amanpour responded that she could not agree to the "unprecedented and unexpected condition" and later reflected on the situation, saying that when conducting interviews outside of Iran, "I have never been asked by any Iranian president ... to wear a head scarf".
Several Iranian women living in India demonstrated against the Iranian government and burned their hijabs as a sign of protests.
On 24 September 2022, the Foreign Ministry of Iran summoned the ambassadors of the UK and Norway, over of what it considered their "interventionist stance". In particular, the Iranian authorities protested the "hostility" allegedly created by Farsi-language London-based media outlets, as well as the statements made by Iranian-born president of the Norwegian parliament Masud Gharahkhani, in support of the protests.
Iran has alleged that Kurdish groups in Iraq have supported the protests, and has launched attacks on Iraq's Kurdistan region. According to local Iraqi authorities, a 28 September 2022 drone and missile attack on an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in Iraq killed at least nine. The U.S. condemned the attack and threatened further sanctions against Iran.
Incumbent Iranian politicians
- Masoud Pezeshkian, (member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, 2008 – present), in a video interview on IRINN TV translated by MEMRI said, "After 40 years of this society...They have been raised by us, not by the Americans. We have had control of the broadcasting authority, the mosques, the schools, the universities. We have been everywhere. It is our fault. We want to implement religious faith through the use of force. This is scientifically impossible."
Exiled leaders and activists
- Iranian former footballer Ali Karimi expressed his support for the protestors, and called on the Iranian army to side with them. He also shared technical advice on how to circumvent the Internet blackout. Fars News, partially affiliated with the IRGC considered him as "the new leader of the opposition", and called for his arrest.
- Masih Alinejad tweeted, "Police used tear gas to disperse Iranian protesters in Paris in an effort to protect the Islamic Republic embassy. Meanwhile, @EmmanuelMacron shook hands with the murderous president of Iran."
- Canada: Foreign minister Mélanie Joly called for "a full and complete investigation into the regime's actions" in the aftermath of Amini's death.
- Turkey: Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said he was saddened by the death of Mahsa Amini and that Iran needs to find a balanced way to respect one's free will and maintain the public order. Demonstrations occurred in several Turkish cities, including a protest of a group of Iranians in front of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul.
- United States: During his floor speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Joe Biden offered solidarity to the protesters, imploring them to "secure their basic rights". Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Iranian government in response to Amini's death, tweeting that "[Amini's] death is unforgiveable. We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for such human rights abuses".
- European Union: The European External Action Service (EEAS) condemned Amini's death in a statement and called for the Iranian government to "ensure that fundamental rights of its citizens are respected".
- United Nations: Nada al-Nashif, the acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed concern over Amini's death and Iranian authorities' response to the resulting protests. Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, urged Iran's clerical leadership several days later to "fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association". Shamdasani added that reports specify that "hundreds have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists, and at least 18 journalists", and "Thousands have joined anti-government demonstrations throughout the country over the past 11 days. Security forces have responded at times with live ammunition".
- Amnesty International: The Amnesty International criticized the use of unlawful force by Iranian authorities to brutally quash the Nationwide protest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. Iranian security forces have fired metal pellets at protesters at close range, misused tear gas and water cannons, and severely beaten people with batons.
Human rights advocates
After photos and videos of the protests and the responding force shown during the protests, many international human rights groups such as the Iran Human Rights group and the Human Rights Watch group, and the UN Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, issued statements of concern. The Human Rights Watch group raised specific concerns about reports that seem to indicate authorities using teargas and lethal force to disperse protesters.
On 22 September 2022, the United States Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against the Morality Police as well as seven senior leaders of Iran's various security organizations, "for violence against protestors and the death of Mahsa Amini". These include Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, chief of Iran's Morality Police, and Kioumars Heidari, commander of the Iranian army's ground force, in addition to the Iranian Minister of Intelligence Esmail Khatib, Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, head of the Tehran division of the Morality Police, Salar Abnoush, deputy commander of the Basij militia, and two law enforcement commanders, Manouchehr Amanollahi and Qasem Rezaei of the LEF in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province of Iran. The sanctions would involve blocking any properties or interests in property within the jurisdiction of the US, and reporting them to the US Treasury. Penalties would be imposed on any parties that facilitate transactions or services to the sanctioned entities.
On 26 September 2022, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that his government will impose sanctions on the Morality Police, its leadership, and the officials responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on the protestors.
In popular culture
- Iranian Revolution
- Homa Darabi
- Killing of Neda Agha-Soltan
- My Stealthy Freedom
- Human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
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Zhina Amini, you will not die. Your name will be a symbol,
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