Iran faces global criticism over woman’s death in custody
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran came under international criticism on Tuesday over the death of a woman in the custody of its vice squad, which sparked three days of protests including clashes with security forces in the capital and other unrest that left at least three people dead.
The UN human rights office has called for an investigation. The United States, which is trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, has called on the Islamic Republic to end its “systemic persecution” of women. Italy also condemned his death.
Iranian officials dismissed the criticism as politically motivated and accused unnamed foreign countries of fomenting the unrest.
Read more: What a new Iran nuclear deal could look like
Separately, an Iranian official said three people had been killed by unnamed armed groups in the Kurdish region of the country where the protests began, the first official confirmation of deaths linked to the unrest.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported that around 300 protesters gathered in downtown Tehran on Tuesday, chanting “Death to the dictator”. AP reporters then saw a massive deployment of police in the area, as well as trash cans set on fire and rocks strewn at some intersections.
A photo obtained by AFP outside Iran shows a burning trash can in the middle of a crossroads during protests in Tehran on September 20, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images
Tehran Provincial Governor Mohsen Mansouri accused foreign embassies of stoking the protests and said three foreign nationals had been arrested. He did not specify the nationality of the embassies or the detainees.
The UN body said Iran’s morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not wearing the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, correctly. He said verified videos show women slapped in the face, beaten with batons and thrown into police vans for wearing the hijab too loosely.
A similar patrol arrested Mahsa Amini, 22, last Tuesday, taking her to the police station where she collapsed. She died three days later. Iranian police have denied abusing Amini and say she died of a heart attack. Authorities say they are investigating the incident.
“The tragic death of Mahsa Amini and the allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority,” said Nada Al-Nashif, acting High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights.
Read more: Outcry in Iran over Mahsa Amini’s death is more than just mourning
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Amini “should be alive today”.
“Instead, the United States and the people of Iran mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest,” he tweeted.
Italy’s foreign ministry called for “the perpetrators of this cowardly act” to be held accountable, saying “violence against innocent people, especially women and girls, can never be tolerated”.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian dismissed the criticism, accusing the United States of “shedding crocodile tears”.
“An inquest has been ordered into (the) tragic death of Mahsa, who as (the) president said was like our own daughters,” he tweeted. “For Iran, human rights have inherent value, unlike those who see it (as) a tool against adversaries.”
Women protest against the death of Mahsa Amini outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin on September 17, 2022.
Paul Zinken—photo alliance/Getty Images
Iranian police released closed-circuit video footage last week allegedly showing the moment Amini collapsed. But her family says she had no heart history.
Amjad Amini, her father, told an Iranian news site that witnesses saw her being pushed into a police car.
“I asked for access to the (videos) of the cameras inside the car as well as in the courtyard of the police station, but they gave no response,” he said. He also accused the police of not moving her to hospital quickly enough, saying she could have been revived.
He said when he arrived at the hospital he was not allowed to see the body but managed to glimpse bruises on his foot.
Authorities then pressured him to bury her at night, apparently to reduce the risk of protests, but Amini said the family convinced them to let them bury her at 8 a.m.
Amini, who was Kurdish, was buried in her hometown of Saqez in western Iran on Saturday. Demonstrations erupted there after his funeral and police fired tear gas to disperse protesters on Saturday and Sunday. Several protesters were arrested.
The governor of Iran’s Kurdistan province, Esmail Zarei Kousha, told Fars that three people had been killed by unnamed armed groups, linking the violence to the unrest.
He did not identify the victims, but said one was killed in the town of Divandarreh by a weapon not used by Iranian security forces. He said the second body was found in a car near Saqez and the third murder was “completely” suspicious.
The province has seen past violence between Iranian security forces and Kurdish separatists.
Protests spread to Tehran and other cities on Monday. A news site affiliated with state television said 22 people were arrested during a protest in the northern town of Rasht.
State television broadcast images of the protests on Monday, including images of two police cars with their windows smashed. He said protesters also torched two motorcycles and burned Iranian flags in Kurdish areas and Tehran.
The public broadcaster blamed the unrest on foreign countries and opposition groups in exile, accusing them of using Amini’s death as a pretext for more economic sanctions.
Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, mainly due to a long economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to the country’s nuclear program. The authorities succeeded in crushing the demonstrations by force.
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