Nationwide protests have gripped Iran following the death of a young woman in custody. But as global attention towards the incident intensifies, a viral TikTok has underlined that the protests are not about rejecting the hijab, but to empower women with more agency.

“Here’s what we’re not gonna do – we’re not gonna take a tragedy and an injustice against women and turn it into another form of controlling women,” said the video’s creator who goes by the name Dr Nahla – a psychiatry resident in Ontario and a content creator with more than two million views on TikTok.

Her video, posted on Wednesday, was a direct response to another comment that urged her to take off her own hijab in order to ‘support women in Iran.’

She went on to highlight that it’s not okay to force women to wear the hijab, but it is also not okay to force them to remove it; or not allow them to wear it; or force them to dress a certain way.

The now-deleted comment came from another TikTok user, @inidiravdic, who also has a sizable following on the platform. “You have 13,000 followers. And you thought it was okay to post a bigoted comment like this?”

Dr Nahla lives in Ontario and is an advocate of her freedom to choose to wear the hijab. “I exercised my right to choose how I wanted to dress. You know what women in Iran deserve: that very same choice,” added Dr Nahla, a Canadian of Syrian origin.

“They deserve the freedom to choose how they want to dress, just like I do.”

Police stations and cars have been torched in protests that have engulfed Iran after the death of influencer Mahsa Amini, 22 last week.

She was arrested for wearing “unsuitable attire” before falling into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would launch an investigation into the cause of her death.

Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils, with some cutting their hair in public, according to Reuters.

The report suggests that these protests have been the biggest in Iran since the bloody uprising against inflation in 2019. The current demonstrations spread from the Kurdish-populated northwest to more than 50 cities and towns nationally. Amini was from the province of Kurdistan.

As of Thursday, five people have been reported dead in the protests and dozens injured in clashes with security forces. The authorities have used hard measures to curb the protests, including an internet blackout in the majority of districts.

While Amini’s death has reignited public outrage in Iran over restrictions on personal freedoms – including policing of women’s outfits by the ‘morality police’ – Muslim voices globally have appealed to onlookers to view the situation from a more critical lens.

“Another thing that I really don’t like is the genralization that all Muslim people know about the political climate of every Muslim country and represent every Muslim in the world,” said Dr Nahla on TikTok.

“We cannot possibly carry that burden,” she summed up the situation.

Countries like Canada are in the process of developing measures to tackle the rising problem of anti-Muslim hatred. A standing Senate Committee for human rights recently invited testimonies from local communities to develop a robust anti-Islamophobia strategy.

The United Nations have declared March 15 as the International Day To Combat Islamophobia as global observance across 140 countries worldwide.

The decision stemmed from the UN Secretary-General’s observations at the Human Rights Council about “epidemic proportions” of discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims.

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