After the custodial death of Mahsa Amini as a result of police brutality, Iran has confirmed at least three deaths during the protests against it, which intensified in several cities on Tuesday. Iran law enforcement affiliated Guidance Patrol, also known as the “morality police”, had detained Amini for wearing her hijab improperly. Amini allegedly succumbed to wounds inflicted on her by the police officials soon after.
In a report by Al Jazeera, Iranian Governor Esmail Zarei Kousha confirmed that three people died “suspiciously” during the recent “illegal protests”. However, Iranian security officials were shown shooting directly at protesters in some visuals shared by Iran News International. Governor Kousha has denied any such claims, stating, “Investigations have shown that these people were shot and killed by those working against the establishment and with firearms that are not employed by any tiers of security or law enforcement forces in the province.”
There was also evidence of angry protesters brawling with security officials on several occasions. Security officials threw tear gas at protesters, in response to which some fought back. One person died during protests in Divandareh city, while another was left in a car near a hospital in Saqqez and his death is being investigated as “suspicious”. According to authorities, families need to be vigilant since “anti-revolutionary” groups could use Mahsa Amini’s name for their own purposes.
Mahsa Amini, 22, is reported to have been detained while visiting Tehran with her family. Soon after, emergency services took her to a hospital after she suffered a heart attack. According to Al Jazeera, Iranian state television reported last Friday that she had died and her body had been taken to the medical examiner’s office. Tehran police confirmed that Amini and other women were detained for “instruction” about the rules before she died.
Her funeral was held in Saqqez, her hometown. Following Amini’s death, protests began and spread to several Kurdish cities. The protest over Amini’s death was marked by women burning hijabs and cutting their hair in public and on social media.
Following Amini’s arrest by Iran’s “morality police” and the brutal suppression of her death-related protests, the UN condemned her death in custody and called for an impartial investigation into the same. According to a UN statement, the 22-year-old woman died from natural causes after she was allegedly beaten with a baton and her head banged against the vehicle by Guardian Patrol officials.
“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,” said Nada Al-Nashif, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“The circumstances leading to the suspicious death in custody of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa Amini, which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, must be criminally investigated,” said Amnesty International.
“The so-called ‘morality police’ in Tehran arbitrarily arrested her three days before her death while enforcing the country’s abusive, degrading and discriminatory forced veiling laws. All agents and officials responsible must face justice,” it added.
The Gasht-e Ershad (Guidance Patrol) are at the heart of a rising scandal both inside and outside the nation, over Amini’s killing. In July, a lady begged for her daughter’s release from a police van in a viral video broadcast on social media. The vehicle began to draw away as the veiled woman continued to cling on, and she wasn’t let go until the van started to accelerate.
Women are required to cover their neck and hair with a headscarf in accordance with the mandated dress code, which is applicable to people of all nations and religions while in Iran, and not just Iranian Muslims. In her comment, Al-Nashif raised concern over Iran’s legislation mandating women to wear hijabs in public, failure to do which carries a prison sentence as a consequence. President Ebrahim Raisi has asked the Interior Ministry to investigate the matter. Several MPs have said that they would bring the problem to the Parliament of Iran. The country’s judiciary has said that it would form a special task group to look into the case.
Authorities started to take stricter restrictions after 2017, when scores of women openly removed their headscarves in a wave of demonstrations. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has advocated for a softer stance against women who do not follow the official dress code. Hardliners, on the other hand, have advocated for harsh punishment, including lashing, claiming that permitting women to reveal their hair leads to moral deterioration and family breakdown. In recent years, the judiciary has also asked individuals to report women who do not wear the hijab.
Iranian celebrities, athletes, and other prominent figures have all condemned Amini’s situation. Former Iranian president and reformist Mohammad Khatami termed the morality police’s actions a “disaster”, while outspoken politician and former MP Mahmoud Sadeghi urged Ayatollah Khamenei to speak publicly on the issue.
“What does the Supreme Leader, who rightfully denounced US police over the death of George Floyd, say about the Iranian police’s treatment of Mahsa Amini?” questioned Sadeghi on Twitter.