Female protesters in Iran have been burning headscarves and hijabs following the death of a woman who was detained for breaking hijab laws.
Twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini fell into a coma last week, hours after Guidance Patrol – also known as morality police, a force tasked with arresting people who violate Iran's strict dress code – detained her.
They accused Amini of breaking the law requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab, and their arms and legs with loose clothing. According to witnesses at the scene, Amini was beaten while inside a police van that took her to a detention centre. She then spent three days in a coma, but passed away in hospital on Friday 17 September.
Since then, Tehran's police chief has branded Amini's death an "unfortunate" incident that he does not want repeated. The force also rejected allegations that Amini was beaten, and claimed she suffered "sudden heart failure" while waiting with other women at the facility to be "educated".
The force later released CCTV footage that showed a woman they identified as Amini talking with a female official, who grabs her clothing. She is then seen holding her head with her hands and collapsing to the ground.
Iran's interior minister said on Saturday that Amini "apparently had previous physical problems". But her father denied the claim and said (via BBC) that she was "fit and had no health problems". He also said his daughter had suffered bruising to her legs and that the CCTV footage showed an "edited version" of events.
On Monday Tehran's police chief, Brig-Gen Rahimi, expressed sympathy to Amini's family, but insisted that she suffered no physical harm. "The evidence shows that there was no negligence or inappropriate behaviour on the part of the police," he told reporters.
The 22-year-old's death has sparked protests in the capital and across western Iran, with demonstrations continuing for five consecutive nights.
Videos posted on social media appeared to show a crowd throwing stones in the town of Divandarreh and later running after coming under fire. Other clips showed protests in the capital, where women removed their headscarves and shouted "death to the dictator" – a chant often used in reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Kerman's Azadi Square tonight, a woman sits on top of a utility box, takes off her headscarf and cuts her hair as people chant "death to the dictator" on the fifth night of protests in Iran over the death of #MahsaAmini in custody of morality police.pic.twitter.com/3zZuZkkom1
— Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86) September 20, 2022
Two people were reportedly killed in clashes with riot police on Monday, whilst Kurdish human rights group Hengaw said on Sunday that at least 38 people have been injured.
Our thoughts are with Amini's family at this difficult time.
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