WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced a resolution condemning the detention and death of Mahsa Amini, who was held by Iran's morality police this month for allegedly wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf too loosely.
The 22-year-old's death sparked large-scale protests across Iran that have captured the world's attention, with women protesters making a show of taking off their headscarves and cutting their hair in solidarity with Amini.
“As co-chair of the Human Rights Caucus, I commend the thousands of brave protesters who are risking their lives to advocate for human rights in Iran, including the human rights of Iranian women," Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said in a statement. “The public response to Mahsa Amini’s death at the hands Iran’s morality police makes clear that the Iranian government’s oppression is no match for the demands for dignity and respect by the Iranian people.”
At least a dozen people have been killed since the protests erupted around the country following Amini's death in mid-September, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Iranian state media has said the toll could be much higher. The Iranian government has pushed back, clashing with demonstrators and clamping down on internet access.
Amini had been detained Sept. 13 for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely in violation of strictures demanding women in public wear the Islamic headscarves. She died three days later in police custody; authorities said she had a heart attack but hadn’t been harmed. Her family has disputed that, leading to the public outcry.
Dozens of Republican and Democratic senators showed their support for the resolution Thursday, which also comes as the U.S. is negotiating the revival of a deal with Iran meant to prevent the country from acquiring a nuclear bomb in exchange for the loosening of economic sanctions.
The ongoing negotiations between Washington and Tehran — after former President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew U.S. from the deal in 2018 — are a point of contention for Republicans in Congress.
“The Biden Administration’s blind pursuit of a new nuclear deal only serves to empower the Iranian regime," Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. "The administration should reverse course and hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses.”
The resolution, lawmakers say, seeks to send “a loud and clear message” to the Islamic Republic that the U.S. stands behind women's rights and the right to peaceful protest. It remains unclear when the resolution would come to the Senate floor for passage as the chamber is expected to be gone for the majority of October during campaigning for the midterm elections.