Who is Armita Geravand, 16-year-old Iranian girl reportedly left brain dead by morality police?

Like Mahsa Amini, who died in custody last year, Geravand could become a symbol of resistance.

A banner reading Stand With the Women of Iran, held by a protester in Krakow, Poland.
A banner held by a protester in Krakow, Poland, in 2022. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

The latest symbol of ordinary Iranians’ resistance to their authoritarian and fundamentalist government is Armita Geravand, a 16-year-old who was allegedly viciously beaten by Iran’s morality police for refusing to wear a head covering, or hijab, mandated for women and girls in public.

Geravand was confronted on Oct. 1 by the morality police, who enforce the hijab rule and other similar rules. On Sunday, her father said that she was brain dead and there was no hope of recovery. Geravand’s seemingly imminent death comes almost exactly a year after Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, like Geravand, died in custody after being arrested for not wearing a hijab.

After Amini was killed in September 2022, mass protests erupted across the country — and were viciously suppressed by Iran’s leaders, who hew to a fundamentalist brand of Islam. But women have continued to flout hijab rules in a sign that younger Iranians want to live in a free, modern country.

Geravand could become the latest symbol of their resistance. “She stands as a beacon for millions in Iran, defiantly refusing to submit to oppressive mullahs & enforced hijab,” wrote U.S.-based Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad in a social media post.

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Subway confrontation

(via Facebook)
Via Facebook

According to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, which advocates for Iran’s oppressed Kurdish minority, Geravand, who lived in Tehran but hailed from the distant province of Kermanshah near the border with Iraq, “encountered a physical altercation with morality police in the ‘Shohada’ subway in Tehran due to noncompliance with mandatory hijab rules. Subsequently, she collapsed and was admitted to Fajr Hospital. Both her hospitalization room and the hospital itself have been subjected to stringent security measures.”

Although her hospitalization was known, the severity of her condition was not. According to Hengaw, “Medical experts have expressed pessimism regarding her recovery.”

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A year of protests

About 2,000 people marched through the streets of Brussels to protest against Iran in 2022 after the death of  Mahsa Amini.
About 2,000 people marched through the streets of Brussels to protest against Iran in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

Since 1979, Iran has been an Islamic republic led by a supreme leader — a title held since 1989 by Ali Khamenei. Iran considers the United States and Israel its sworn enemies and is under heavy economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Many young Iranians deviate strikingly from the views of their leaders. For example, after the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel carried out by Hamas, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. that has been supported by Tehran, many ordinary Iranians refused to echo official anti-Israel rhetoric.

Resistance to the ruling regime first exploded in 2009, during the Green Revolution. The more recent protests came after Amini’s death in 2022. Women who flouted Iran’s strict hijab rules came to represent a broader desire for freedom.

“The death of Mahsa Amiri released decades of suppressed energy and will among women to fight back,” Iran analyst Omid Memarian told Reuters when the protests began a year ago. “It’s not the first time, but this time is different.”

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What now?

An Iranian woman lights a firework during a celebration at a park in Tehran in March.
An Iranian woman lights a firework during a celebration at a park in Tehran in March. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency)

With the war between Hamas and Israel widening, and American warships moving into the eastern Mediterranean, the danger of an escalation involving Iran is a real — and dangerous — possibility.

The international dismay over Geravand’s plight, however, suggests a profound disconnect between the regime and the people it rules. “The ‘Islamic’ Republic supports & sheds tears for Hamas abroad while it continues to murder Iranian youth domestically with impunity,” the British Iranian actor Omid Djalili wrote in a widely shared social media post.

Authorities in Tehran got a taste of their unpopularity when they tried to recruit Iranians to fight for Hamas, only to become “a source of ridicule on social media,” according to Iran International, an outlet opposed to the Islamic Republic’s regime.

“A large number of people wish that the volunteers would actually go to the war so that Iran is rid of such regime sympathizers.”

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