A photo of a couple kissing on the street in Iran has gone viral as a unique and beautiful act of defiance at a time when the government is stepping up its crackdown on nationwide protests.
The photo shows a man and woman kissing on the street, surrounded by cars. Their faces are covered, but the woman is not wearing a headscarf – an even more overt act of defiance linked to the alleged crime that sparked the protests in the first place.
“There’s a reason this photo has gone viral on social media,” Lisa Daftari, Middle East expert and editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital.
“This photo symbolizes so many aspects of the current revolution in Iran. A woman boldly defying hijab laws, a couple breaking strict sharia law that prohibits kissing in public, especially if they are unmarried, and brave in the middle of the traffic to make their message known to the world,” she explained.
US SANCTIONS IRANSE STATE MEDIA OFFICIALS FOR COMMUNICATION IN TEHRAN’S REPRESSION OF CITIZENS
The protests began in mid-September after the country’s morality police arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for not wearing her hijab properly. Police rushed her to hospital an hour later with what appeared to be injuries sustained from a beating, and she died a few days later.
The anti-hijab sentiment stood as a clear unifying symbol for the protesters with women taking off their hijabs and cutting their hair in the early days of the protests.
IRAN CAN USE MASS EXECUTIONS TO STOP ANTI-HIJAB PROTESTS IN COUNTRY, HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP WARNS
“Iranian youth are incredibly energetic to let the world know they won’t back down,” said Daftari. “They fight for every freedom.”
The protests have now spread to more than 140 towns and cities and have lasted for more than two months. Iranian security forces have killed at least 326 protesters, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO, and some groups estimate the total may be higher.
WATCH: THE IRANSE SECURITY ATTACKS YOUNG DEMONSTRATORS WITH INCREASINGLY VIOLENT CLEANING
The regime went one step further by issuing death sentences for alleged crimes committed during the protests.
The first death sentence involved arson against government buildings during protests, and a Revolutionary court on Tuesday handed down a second death sentence for allegedly “terrorizing people in the street with a stabbing weapon, setting fire to a civilian’s motorcycle and assaulting a person with a knife,” according to the website of Justice Mizan Online.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
In addition, according to the New York Times, Iranian security forces have begun targeting teenagers and children at the protests. Officers allegedly locked a 14-year-old alongside adult prisoners and beat a 13-year-old plainclothes girl.