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Iran Faces Global Criticism Over Woman’s Death in Custody

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran faced international criticism on Tuesday over the death of a woman held by its morality police, which ignited three days of protests, including clashes with security forces in the capital and other unrest that claimed at least three lives.

An investigation was requested by the U.N. office for human rights. The United States, which is trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, called on the Islamic Republic to end its “systemic persecution” of women. Her death was also condemned by Italy.

Officials from Iran dismissed criticism as political motivated, accusing unnamed foreign nations of inciting the unrest.

Learn more Imagine a New Iran Nuclear Deal.

Separately, an Iranian official confirmed that three protestors were killed in Kurdish regions of Iran by unknown armed groups. This was the first confirmation of unrest-related deaths.

The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that around 300 protesters had gathered in downtown Tehran on Tuesday, chanting “Death to the dictator.” AP reporters later saw a heavy deployment of police in the area, as well as torched trash bins and rocks strewn across some intersections.


A photograph taken outside Iran by AFP shows a dumpster burning at an intersection, during demonstrations in Tehran on September 20, 2022.

AFP via Getty Images

Mohsen Mohsen Mansouri (the governor of Tehran Province) accused foreign embassies in promoting protests. He also said that three foreign nationals have been detained. He didn’t specify which nationality the embassies were or who the detainees were.

The U.N. body said Iran’s morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not properly wearing the Islamic headscarf, known as hijab. Verified videos showed women being struck in the forehead with batons, slapped and then thrown into police vans because they wore the hijab loosely.

Last Tuesday Mahsa, 22 years old, was detained by a similar team. They took her to the station and she eventually collapsed. The incident ended in her death three days later. Iranian police denied that Amini had been mistreated. They claim Amini died from a heart attack. The incident is being investigated by authorities.

“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority,” said Nada Al-Nashif, the acting U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

Learn more Iran’s Outcry over Mahsaa Amini’s Death is More Than Grief

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Amini “should be alive today.”

“Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest,” he tweeted.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry called for “the perpetrators of this cowardly act” to be held to account, saying “violence against innocent people, especially women and girls, can never be tolerated.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected the criticism, accusing the U.S. of “shedding crocodile tears.”

“An investigation was ordered into (the) tragic death of Mahsa, who, as (the) President said, was just like our own daughters,” he tweeted. “To Iran, human rights are of inherent value — unlike those who see it (as) a tool against adversaries.”

Women protest the death of Mahsa Amini in front of the Iranian embassy in Berlin on Sept. 17, 2022. (Paul Zinken—picture alliance/Getty Images)

On September 17, 2022, Mahsa’s death was protested by females in Berlin at the Iranian Embassy.

Paul Zinken—picture alliance/Getty Images

Iranian police have released footage from closed circuit last week, purporting to show the moment Amini died. However, her family insists that she never had any heart issues.

Amjad, her father, said to an Iranian news portal that witnesses witnessed her being put in a police vehicle.

“I asked for access to (videos) from cameras inside the car as well as courtyard of the police station, but they gave no answer,” he said. He claimed that she could have survived if the police had not transferred her to the hospital as quickly as they should.

According to him, he wasn’t allowed to see the body when he got to the hospital but he did get a look at her foot for bruising.

He was then ordered by authorities to have her buried at night in order to minimize protests. However, Amini stated that her family convinced him to allow them to bury his mother at 8 a.m.

Amini, a Kurdish national, was buried in Saqez, her hometown in western Iran, on Saturday. There were protests after Amini’s funeral. Police used tear gas on Saturday and Sunday to disperse the crowds. A number of protestors were detained.

The governor of Iran’s Kurdistan province, Esmail Zarei Kousha, told Fars that three people were killed by unnamed armed groups, linking the violence to the unrest.

Although he did not name the victims, he said that one of them was shot to death in Divandarreh with a weapon which is not commonly used by Iranian security personnel. He said the second body was found in a car near Saqez and that the third killing was “completely” suspicious.

It has survived violence from Kurdish separatists as well as Iranian security forces.

On Monday, protests broke out in Tehran and other major cities. According to a news site affiliated with state television, 22 protestors were detained in Rasht (northern city).

State TV showed video footage Monday of the protests, which included images of police cars that had their windows broken and two other vehicles with empty seats. According to the TV, protesters set fire two more motorbikes and burnt Iranian flags in Kurdish regions and Tehran.

The state-run broadcaster blamed the unrest on foreign countries and exiled opposition groups, accusing them of using Amini’s death as a pretext for more economic sanctions.

Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, mainly over a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to the country’s nuclear program. The authorities have been able to stop the demonstrations with force.

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