Students take to the streets in Iran after woman’s death in custody

Published September 20, 2022
<p>A police motorbike lies in the street next to burning debris during protests for Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police”, in Tehran on September 19. — AFP</p>

A police motorbike lies in the street next to burning debris during protests for Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police”, in Tehran on September 19. — AFP

TEHRAN: Fresh protests broke out on Monday at several universities in Iran’s capital, local media reported, over the death of a young woman who had been arrested by the “morality police” that enforces a strict dress code.

The rallies came a day after police made arrests and fired tear gas in the woman’s home province of Kurdistan, where some 500 people had protested, some smashing car windows and torching rubbish bins, reports said.

Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in a hospital after three days in a coma, following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police during a visit to the capital.

Such police units enforce a dress code in the Islamic republic that demands women wear headscarves in public. It also bans tight trousers, ripped jeans, clothes that expose the knees and brightly coloured outfits.

Police have insisted there was “no physical contact” between officers and the victim.

Tehran police chief General Hossein Rahimi said that the woman had violated the dress code, and that his colleagues had asked her relatives to bring her “decent clothes”.

He again rejected “unjust accusations against the police” and said that “the evidence shows that there was no negligence or inappropriate behaviour on the part of the police”.

“This is an unfortunate incident and we wish never to see such incidents again.” Students rallied, however, including at the capital’s Tehran and Shahid Beheshti Universities, demanding “clarification” on how Amini died, according to Fars and Tasnim news agencies. Protests were reported in other universities elsewhere.

Her death has reignited calls to rein in morality police actions against women suspected of violating the dress code, in effect since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Filmmakers, artists, athletes and political and religious figures have taken to social media to express their anger over the death, both inside and outside the country.

President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultra-conservative former judiciary chief who came to power last year, has ordered an inquiry into Amini’s death.

On Sunday Iranian police used tear gas and arrested several demonstrators in Sanandaj, northwestern Kurdistan province, Fars reported, without specifying how many.

“About 500 people gathered in Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan province, and shouted slogans against the country’s leaders,” Fars reported.

Protestors “smashed the windows of some parked cars, set fire to bins”, and “police used tear gas to disperse the crowd”, the agency said. “Some people were arrested by the police.” “Many demonstrators are convinced that Mahsa died under torture,” Fars reported.

State television on Friday broadcast a short surveillance video that showed a woman identified as Amini collapsing in the police station after an argument with a policewoman.

Amjad Amini, the victim’s father, told Fars that he did “not accept what (the police) showed him”, arguing that “the film has been cut”.

He also criticised the “slow response” of the emergency services, adding: “I believe Mahsa was transferred to the hospital late.” Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said he had received reports that the emergency service had “immediately” arrived at the scene. “Mahsa apparently had previous physical problems and we have reports that she had undergone brain surgery at the age of five,” Vahidi said.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2022

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