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Protests Erupt in Iran

The death of a 22-year-old woman while in police custody has ignited defiant demonstrations.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini in Istanbul
A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini in Istanbul
A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration in support of Amini, a young Iranian woman who died after being arrested in Tehran by the Islamic Republic's morality police, on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul on Sept. 20. OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following Iran’s protests over a suspicious death, the latest developments from the war in Ukraine, and Nigeria’s extreme flooding.   

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


A Suspicious Death Sparks Protests in Iran

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re following Iran’s protests over a suspicious death, the latest developments from the war in Ukraine, and Nigeria’s extreme flooding.   

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


A Suspicious Death Sparks Protests in Iran

Mass protests and widespread outrage have embroiled Iran after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died on Friday while in the custody of the country’s morality police. The police force, which is charged with arresting people who breach the country’s strict dress code, had detained her for allegedly doing so three days prior.

After she was arrested, authorities claimed that she experienced a heart attack and then entered a coma, although her relatives maintain that she did not have any health or heart conditions. Activists believe she may have been struck in the head or concussed while detained.

Her death sparked mass demonstrations that have since engulfed cities and fueled calls to dissolve the morality police and end the country’s hijab law, with protesters defiantly setting fire to their headscarves. Others chanted “death to the dictator” and “Being killed for scarves? How long will this humiliation last?” as the Financial Times reported.

Authorities responded to the unrest with force, reportedly killing as many as five people and wounding dozens of other demonstrators. In stifling protests, officials employed tear gas and lethal force in certain regions, Human Rights Watch said

“Cracking down with teargas and lethal force against protesters demanding accountability for a woman’s death in police custody reinforces the systematic nature of government rights abuses and impunity,” Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Iran’s abusive ‘morality police’ should be abolished and compulsory hijab laws and others that violate women’s rights should be rescinded immediately,” she added.

World leaders widely condemned Tehran, with the United Nations’ top acting human rights official Nada Al-Nashif calling for an independent investigation into her death. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Tehran “to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest.”

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Washington was “shedding crocodile tears.” 

“An investigation was ordered into [the] tragic death of Mahsa, who, as [the] President said, was just like our own daughters,” he tweeted. “To Iran, human rights are of inherent value—unlike those who see it [as] a tool against adversaries.”


What We’re Following Today

Russia’s looming annexations. Authorities in four Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories—Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia—have pledged to hold illegal referendums to formally join Russia, in a development that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called “a further escalation” in the war in Ukraine.  

“The EU strongly condemns the planned illegal ‘referenda,’ which go against the legal and democratically elected Ukrainian authorities, are in violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and in blatant breach of international law,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign minister.

Nigeria’s deadly floods. Extreme flooding in Nigeria has killed more than 300 people and displaced more than 100,000 others in 2022, marking the country’s highest flood-related death toll in a decade. The floodwaters have submerged land and crops, intensifying concerns of food shortages. 

“We are facing devastating floods beyond our control,” Yusuf Sani Babura, the head of the Jigawa State Emergency Management Agency, told the Associated Press. “We have tried our best and we couldn’t stop it.”


Keep an Eye On

Myanmar’s school attack. Army helicopters fired down on a temple school in Myanmar’s Sagaing region, killing at least 12 people—six of whom were children—and wounding nearly 20 more; 15 others disappeared. The junta has claimed that it was targeting rebels inside. 

Rescued migrants. Cypriot officials said they helped retrieve around 300 migrants stranded in a wooden boat near Cyprus’s coast, after the vessel’s engine malfunctioned and its captain transmitted a call for help. The boat had come from Lebanon and was headed toward Italy, authorities told the Associated Press. 


Tuesday’s Most Read

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now by Tatiana Stanovaya

Kazakhstan Is Breaking Out of Russia’s Grip by Temur Umarov

Cafe Meeting Turns Into Tense Car Chase for U.S. Senate Aides in Zimbabwe by Robbie Gramer


Odds and Ends 

As the climate crisis upends life around the world, one man’s climate activism—gluing himself to a Canadian bank’s door—has resulted in a court order barring him from possessing any adhesive when he is away from his home.

“You must not possess any glue, Super Glue, adhesive, fixative, or resin outside your residence, except: with the prior written permission of your probation officer, or such glue, adhesive, fixative or resin which normally would be used by or with children,” the judge said

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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