Security forces in Iran cracked down Monday as protests and international criticism continued over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for violating the country’s dress code..
Amini, who was Kurdish, was arrested last week by Iran’s “morality police” for not properly covering her hair with a headscarf, or hijab, according to a statement from acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif. Amini collapsed at a detention center, fell into a coma and died three days later, the statement said.
Iranian police said Amini died of a heart attack and released footage purportedly showing the moment she collapsed. Her family told local media that she had no history of heart trouble and said witnesses reported seeing her being shoved into a police car.
Her father, Amjad Amini, told an Iranian news website that authorities pressured him to bury his daughter at night to reduce the chance of protests, but the family was able to bury her in the morning instead.
Thousands of protesters across the country took to the streets after Amini’s death, including those in her home city of Saqez where she was buried Saturday. Police arrested several demonstrators and used tear gas to disperse protesters in Saqez and gunshots and water cannons to break up crowds in Iran’s capital city of Tehran, according to videos shared on social media by Iranian journalists.
Women can be seen on video at the forefront of clashes with police taking off their headscarves. Wearing a hijab has been required for women since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Dozens of women too removed their headscarves in protest in 2017.
At least five people were killed, 75 people were injured and several were arrested during the protests Monday, according to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a human rights watchdog that monitors the Kurdish areas in the west of Iran.
The UN’s Al-Nashif expressed alarm at Amini’s death “and the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests.”
“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth,” Al-Nashif said in a statement Tuesday. “The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Amini “should be alive today.”
“Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest,” he said on Twitter.
Blinken’s remarks about the tensions came as the US attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
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Leaders of the European Union also issued a statementsaying Amini’s death was “unacceptable and the perpetrators of this killing must be held accountable.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected the criticism and said on Twitter Amini’s death is being investigated by the judiciary and a parliamentary committee. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, who left for New York on Monday to address the UN General Assembly, said he told Amini’s family in a phone call that he has ordered an investigation and vowed to pursue the case.
“To Iran, human rights are of inherent value — unlike those who see it (as) a tool against adversaries,” he said.
Police in Iran have expanded patrols in recent months and verbally and physically harassed women perceived to be wearing “loose hijab,” according to the statement from the United Nations.
The UN Human Rights Office said it has received numerous, verified videos of women being slapped across the face, beaten with batons and thrown into police vans for not properly wearing the hijab. The office said there are reports that Amini was hit on the head with a baton and her head was hit against a vehicle during her arrest.
Mehdi Forozesh, the director of Iran’s Forensic Medical Organization, said on state television Saturday the results of Amini’s autopsy would be publicized after further review by medical experts, CNN reported.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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