His face was lit up on a billboard in Times Square, and painted on murals in Paris and Berlin. It was splashed on the private jet of the Barcelona soccer team and commemorated on T-shirts with the red, white and green colors of the Iranian flag. Vienna and Los Angeles even named streets after him.
At rallies across Iran and the world last year, tens of thousands of men and women waved placards with her face shouting, “Say her name: Mahsa Amini. Mahsa Amini.”
Saturday will mark one year since the 22-year-old woman from Saghez, a small city in a Kurdish province in northwestern Iran, died in custody of the country’s morality police on charges of violating the law. of the hijab, which mandates women and girls to cover their hair and body.
Her death in Tehran sparked month-long protests across the country, led by women and girls who removed their headscarves in defiance and demanded an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule. The uprising that bears his name, the “Mahsa Movement,” has been the most serious challenge to the legitimacy of Iran’s ruling clerics since they came to power in 1979.
Security forces responded with a violent crackdown, arresting thousands and killing at least 500 protesters, including children and teenagers, rights groups said. Seven protesters were killed, and even the demonstrators’ relatives were targeted.
On Saturday, security agents swarmed the neighborhood of Ms. Admitted and prevented his parents from attending a commemoration they had planned at his grave. His father was temporarily detained for questioning and released on Friday, according to Saleh Nikbakht, the family’s lawyer. To further prevent visitors from visiting the grave of Ms. Admittedly in Saghez, authorities imposed checkpoints along the road leading to the cemetery and deliberately opened a nearby dam to flood it, residents said on social media.
But if Ms. Admitted in death to be a global icon, the girl with brown eyes and long dark hair was also a daughter, sister, niece and favorite granddaughter. In recent interviews, the father of Ms. Amini, an uncle, two cousins and a family friend described her as an unlikely candidate for global fame, someone whose story resonated so widely and so deeply precisely because she could have been any girl who lived and walking the streets of Iran.
Ms. Amini is quiet, reserved and treats everyone around him with a kind of old-school politeness, they say. He avoided politics and activism, and did not follow the news. He didn’t have many friends and mostly hung out with his relatives, family members said.
His mother was his best friend and his biggest influence, they said, and the two cooked, hiked and listened to music together. On the day she was arrested, walking with her family in Tehran, she was wearing a long black dress that belonged to her mother and a headscarf. She was arrested by the morality police on charges of violating hijab rules.
“She was an innocent and ordinary young woman from a middle-class family who was just beginning to discover her adult path,” said Vafa Aeili, her 43-year-old uncle, who left Iran to Finland a few weeks ago. “He was very inquisitive, always asking me questions, always looking for advice about what to do, how to improve his studies and organize his work.”
Iran has stepped up its crackdown on dissidents ahead of the anniversary of Ms. Admit that there is a new wave of arrests. Another of his uncles, Safa Aeili, was detained in a raid on his home in Sanandaj last week. His father, Amjad Amini, has been questioned several times recently and forced to cancel commemorations planned for Saturday.
Kaveh Ghoreishi, a Kurdish journalist from Ms.’s hometown. Amini, whose family is an old friend of his family, said security forces have taken steps to intimidate residents, openly installing surveillance cameras throughout the city and at the cemetery where he is buried. Helicopters have been circling the city for days, said Ghoreishi, who is now in Berlin.
Issued by the parents of Ms. Admit it a statement on their Instagram accounts in early September saying they planned to hold a “traditional and religious ceremony” at her grave on Saturday to honor their daughter but asked people to “avoid any violence or reaction to violence.” This Friday, they are still planning to perform the ritual.
Ms. Amini was born into a Kurdish family of modest means but deeply rooted in their ethnic community and its traditions and culture. Her parents are mindful of the potential state discrimination their daughter could face as an ethnic minority. So they gave him two names: Mahsa, for official documents, and a Kurdish name, Jina, which means eternal. That was the name used by everyone who knew him.
The family is strict, with conservative values. Some members of Ms.’s extended family. Amini was religious and observed Muslim practices such as praying and fasting, but never practiced the faith, said his uncle, Mr. Aeili.
The father of Ms. Amini worked for the state social security agency, retiring about a year before his death. His mother, Mozhgan Eftekhari, was a housewife known for her singing of Persian classical songs. His parents lost their oldest son, Armin, at age 5 from food poisoning and lack of proper medical care, family members said. When their daughter was born they were overjoyed and overprotective, Mr. Aeili said.
“When Jina was young she loved big dolls, and I had to buy dolls for her if I took her shopping at the bazaar; he seemed to dream big from a young age,” his father wrote in The Times. “Jina has a very pure and kind heart. If you meet her once and hear her soft voice, you will never forget her.”
The cherished memories of Ms. Amini reflects on his relatives: how he always plays a happy Iranian video clip when the family sits down for a meal; her love of clothes in bright colors; and how she was too shy to join the singing sessions at small family gatherings.
“Sometimes I forget you’re not there, I want to dial your number and tell you I’m sad,” his younger brother Ashkan, 19, wrote on his Instagram page next to the photo of Ms. Admit it.
After graduating from high school, Ms. Amini is on her career path, and is considering medicine, acting and becoming a radio host, her family said. He actually got a certificate in pharmacology, but he wasn’t ready to make a career of it. He tried different hobbies: playing the flute, hiking and volleyball.
In the months before her death, Ms. Amini at a women’s clothing store that her father bought with his retirement payout. His brother now manages the store.
He loves to travel but he never left Iran. He dreams of going to Turkey and visiting Istanbul and the poet Rumi’s shrine in Konya, his uncle said. After years of taking university entrance exams and failing, he has finally been accepted into a microbiology program at Azad University, in the Iranian city of Urmia, and is set to begin classes in the fall of 2022.
“His favorite thing to do is hang out and play with all the babies and children in the family,” his 27-year-old cousin said in a phone interview from Saghez, Iran, who asked not to be identified. for fear of retaliation. . If there was one place she came out of her shell it was at weddings, her cousins and uncles said, where she wore long colorful Kurdish dresses, curled her hair and danced hand-in-hand with her relatives.
His uncle remembers giving him a notebook and recommending that he jot down his thoughts every day to help him find direction. In the months before his death, he surprised her by showing her a notebook with charts and plans, a blueprint of a life that could have happened, Mr. Aeili said.
The Iranian government said that Ms. Amini died while in police custody due to underlying medical issues. His family said he had no health problems, and that he died because the police beat him. A picture of Ms. Admit it in a hospital coma with blood dripping from his ears and tubes in his mouth went viral, further undermining the government’s narrative.
Mr. Nikbakht, the family’s lawyer, said no arrests have been made in Ms. Admitted because the coroner’s office rejects claims by his family and doctors that he died from a blow to the lower part of his skull.
The United States House recently overwhelmingly passed the “Mahsa Act,” a package of sanctions aimed at punishing Iran and its top leaders for human rights violations and to limit the import and export of country of military equipment. It is not clear whether the The Senate will take it up at a time when Washington and Iran have taken steps to ease tensions.
On Saturday, protests honoring Ms. Amini in the year after his death was planned in more than 50 cities around the world including Washington, New York, London and Sydney.
For members of the Amini family the anniversary brings some comfort, as their daughter’s death has galvanized Iranians to seek change. But it also brings pain and regret.
They traveled to Tehran that week in September to visit Ms. Admit and buy clothes to stock the store. They spent a week in the Caspian Sea, then Ms. Agreed if they could skip the trip to Tehran and fly home instead, his uncle said.
“I will never forgive myself as the father of the family because I was the one who forced us to go to Tehran,” his father said.
Leily Nikounazarcontributed reporting.