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Violent protest over Iranian's death in custody

September 17, 2022

Twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by Iran's morality police. Following her funeral, security forces reportedly fired tear gas against angry protesters.

A photo of Iranian Mahsa Amini in hospital, in a bed, hooked up to medical equipment
Mahsa Amini, 22, died after being arrested by Iran's morality police earlier this weekImage: UGC

Security forces in Iran on Saturday fired tear gas at protesters, gathered in the northwestern city of Saqez following the death of a young woman in custody.

The rally took place after the funeral for 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the so-called morality police in Tehran on Tuesday over her headscarf or hijab.

She was declared dead on Friday, having spent three days in a coma after what police said was a heart attack but which some Iranians believe was a beating.

What's the latest?

The Fars news agency reported that police showed up after protesters chanted slogans in front of the local governor's building in Saqez, about 460 kilometers (280 miles) west of Tehran.

Once they fired tear gas, the demonstrators dispersed and there was no immediate information about any injuries.

Videos posted on social media on Saturday purported to show protesters in Saqez chanting antigovernment slogans.

They included, "Death to the dictator" — a reference to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What is known about Amini's arrest?

Amini was on a visit with her family in the Iranian capital when she was detained by the police unit responsible for enforcing Iran's strict dress code for women.

State television broadcast images on Friday purportedly showed her falling to the ground while arguing with another woman about her dress.

It is not possible to verify the video, which appeared to be edited.

In a statement on Friday, Tehran police rejected allegations on social media that she was likely beaten, insisting "there was no physical encounter" between officers and Amini.

The police said she was among a number of women taken to a police station for "instruction" on the dress code.

"She suddenly fainted while with other visitors in the hall," the statement said.

Police said they believe Amini died of a heart attack, while a relative said she had no history of heart disease.

The Kasra Hospital in Tehran, where Amini was taken, said she was admitted without vital signs.

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi has ordered an inquiry into Amini's death, while the judiciary said it would form a special task force to investigate.

It could take up to three weeks for medical examiners to determine the cause of death, according to local media.

Amini's death triggered an outcry from celebrities and prominent figures on social media.

Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who rarely reacts publicly to events in Iran, expressed sorrow and called Amini's death a "crime."

A group of women in Iran wearing the hijab
Women are required to wear the Islamic headscarf, the hijab, but many are refusing to conceal their hairImage: Peter Langer/Design Pics/picture alliance

Why does Iran have a morality police?   

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the law requires all women, regardless of nationality or religious belief, to wear a hijab that covers the head and neck while concealing the hair.

Members of the morality police — known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad (Guidance Patrol) — enforce the strict dress code.

In recent years, they have been criticized for their heavy-handed treatment of people, especially young women.

Many women have been pushing the boundaries by allowing the hijab to slide back and reveal more hair, especially in Tehran and other major cities.

Since 2017, after dozens of women publicly took off their headscarves in a wave of protests, authorities have adopted tougher measures and violators face public rebuke, fines or arrest.

However, political reformers have urged Iran's parliament to cancel the hijab law and do away with the morality police.

mm/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)