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Fury Grows in Iran over Woman’s Death after Hijab Arrest

Mahsa Amini arrested by Iran's morality police
Fury Grows in Iran over Woman’s Death after Hijab Arrest Credit: Video Screenshot WION / YouTube

Fury grew in Iran over the death of a twenty-two-year-old Iranian woman after falling into a coma following her arrest by Iran’s morality police, who were enforcing strict hijab rules, last week.

Mahsa Amini and her family, who had traveled from Iran’s Kurdistan region to visit relatives in the capital of Tehran were stopped on Tuesday evening by a patrol of morality police.

Human rights activists who have spoken to the family say the police grabbed Amini and forced her into a police vehicle. An attempt by her brother, Kiarash, to intervene was futile, with police insisting she was being taken to the police station for one hour of “re-education,” IranWire reported.

The Iran morality police is mandated to enforce strict hijab rules related to dress codes for women. These include wearing the compulsory headscarf.

Kiarash said that while he was waiting outside of the police station for her to be released, an ambulance pulled up and discreetly took his sister to the hospital. He never saw his sister awake again.

During an interview, IranWire Kiarash said that the police told him his sister had suffered a heart attack or a stroke while in the police station and that she was in a coma.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death, Iranian state news agency ISNA reported on Friday.

Death of Amini trends top Persian-language hashtags on Twitter

On Friday, Amini was pronounced dead with authorities saying she suffered from chronic medical conditions.

On Sunday, protests continued, and the #MahsaAmini became one of the top hashtags ever on Persian-language Twitter as Iranians fumed over the death of a young woman in the hands of morality police.

However, the police rejected suspicions aired on social media that she was beaten, saying she fell ill as she waited with other detained women.

Amini’s father said, “Authorities have said my daughter suffered from chronic medical conditions. I personally deny such claims as my daughter was fit and had no health problems.”

By Sunday afternoon, the Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini had reached a record 1.63 million mentions on Twitter.

On Saturday, protests raged at the funeral in her hometown of Saqez, but police repressed demonstrations and, according to videos posted online, at least one man suffered a head injury.

Behzad Rahimi, a member of parliament for Saqez, told reporters that several people were wounded at the funeral. “One of them was hospitalized in the Saqez Hospital after being hit in the intestines by ball bearings,” he said.

Women’s rights in Iran questioned following woman’s Hijab Arrest

The case of Amini’s death following her arrest by morality police has put a spotlight on women’s rights in Iran.

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Sunday around the University of Tehran, shouting “Woman, Life, Freedom,” according to online videos.

Under Iran’s sharia, or Islamic law, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes with offenders facing public rebuke, fines, or arrest.

Nevertheless, in recent months, activists have urged women to remove veils despite the hardline rulers’ crackdown on “immoral behavior.”

Police in Iran reported that “the woman was sent to a Greater Tehran police precinct for guidance and education when, suddenly, in the presence of other people, she had a heart attack.”

Controversy surrounds footage prior to Amini’s death

Footage released by Iranian state TV shows Amini walking into an “education” center where she would receive “guidance” on proper Islamic attire, state media said.

The edited video shows CCTV footage of a woman taking a seat and then standing to speak to an “expert” who touches her clothing before she collapses onto the floor. Five men are shown carrying her, apparently unconscious, on a stretcher.

There’s an edit in the video at nineteen seconds after which the woman is seen standing up and speaking. Before the cut, it appears to be daylight outside. After the cut, it appears to be dark.

Kiarash said there were only two hours between her arrest and her being transferred to the hospital. Therefore, the details about what happened to Amini after her arrest and before she appeared at the re-education center remain unknown.

The National Security Adviser to US President Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan, said in a tweet on Friday that the White House is deeply concerned about Amini’s death.

He tweeted, Amini, “was reportedly beaten in custody by Iran’s morality police. Her death is unforgivable. We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for such human rights abuses.”

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