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German govt. condemns death of Iranian woman

September 23, 2022

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called the death of a woman in police custody for not wearing a hijab "terrible." Meanwhile, thousands of pro-government demonstrators have gathered in Tehran.

Iranian protesters in Tehran clash with police
State media reported that the death toll from unrest could be as high as 26Image: SalamiPix/abaca/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday condemned the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in Iran.

Amini had been arrested for allegedly wearing a headscarf in an "improper" way, and died after collapsing at a police station.

What did Scholz say?

Scholz called Amini's death "terrible, and added he was "saddened" by the deaths of "courageous women" during the protests, after dozens were reported killed in clashes with police. 

"No matter where in the world: women must be able to live a self-determined life — without having to fear for their lives."

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit called for a "swift and immediate investigation into [Amini's] death."

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Berlin was discussing a joint approach to the issue with EU partners, without giving further details.

Women protesting risk their freedom and lives: Azadeh Pourzand, PhD researcher SOAS

Government-backed counterrallies

Amid the ongoing protests over Amini's death in police custody, thousands demonstrated across Iran at pro-hijab counterrallies backed by the government in Tehran.

"The great demonstration of the Iranian people condemning the conspirators and the sacrileges against religion took place today," said Iran's state Mehr news agency, praising the counterprotesters.

Iran's military has warned against participating in "illegal gatherings," and the secret service said it would "not allow enemies to use the situation," according to Iranian state media.

Also on Friday, Iranian authorities blocked access to social media platforms Instagram and WhatsApp.

Iranian state TV suggested the death toll from clashes between police and protesters could be as high as 26. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran has put the figure at 36.

'Iconic' protests

Human Rights Watch researcher Tara Sepehri Far said that it "seems like the authorities' go-to tactic is to come down with an iron fist," referring to Iranian law enforcement's response to protesters.

Far said that she had "never seen criticism against compulsory hijab so widespread and so diverse within the Iranian society and inside the country."

"Again path for peaceful protests have been blocked in Iran for decades, but the protests are only growing," she stressed. "I think it's pretty iconic that they happened in demand for accountability and women's rights."

The researcher showed skepticism towards Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's announcement that Tehran would launch an investigation into Amini's death.

"Over the past few months alone, there have been numerous instances of police using violence against women. … In none of those cases, we've seen any act of accountability."

sdi/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, Lusa)