The death of a young Iranian woman from a head trauma after her arrest by a hijab enforcement patrol has sparked anger and some protests in the capital Tehran.
The 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who was arrested on Tuesday by the morality police was taken to hospital two hours later from Vozara Detention Center after losing consciousness. She passed away Friday afternoon at Kasra Hospital in northern Tehran. Originally from Saqqez in Kurdistan province, Amini was arrested in her brother’s car on a visit to the capital to see their relatives.
“Mahsa Amini’s death after injuries sustained in custody for an “improper” hijab is appalling. Our thoughts are with her family. Iran must end its violence against women for exercising their fundamental rights. Those responsible for her death should be held accountable,” US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley tweeted Friday.
Amnesty International account for the organisation's work on Iran also said in a tweet that the circumstances leading to “the suspicious death in custody” of Mahsa Amini must be criminally investigated.
Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi also issued a statement calling the Islamic Republic “misogynistic” and asking Iranians to “stand up against this monstrosity.”
Several videos posted on social media show dozens of people on sidewalks of streets close to the hospital where Amini died chanting slogans such as “We will kill the one who killed our sister”, “Down with Dictator’, and shouted “Scoundrels like Daish” while drivers of the vehicles on the street honked their horns.
Social media users said armed security forces who arrived on motorbikes at Argentine square and around the hospital in its vicinity beat people with batons with no discretion and blocked roads to prevent a protest rally from forming. Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least three people were arrested.
As seen in the videos uploaded on Twitter and Instagram, protesters also chanted against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has not seen been seen in public recently. Sources familiar with his health situation told New York Times Friday that the 83-year-old ruler fell gravely ill and is currently on bed rest under observation by a team of doctors.
In another social media video people are heard chanting “Death to Khamenei” on rooftops and from their windows in an unspecified neighborhood.
Hours after the announcement of Amini’s death at the hospital, the state television (IRIB) aired CCTV footage of the detention center where Amini had been taken by the morality police. The footage showed her collapsing while apparently arguing with one of the female officers as proof that she had not been subjected to violence at the time of her arrest, but the film is an edited segment, and it cannot be seen if something happened before she collapsed.
Amini’s family members say there was a scuffle at the time of Amini’s arrest. According to her uncle, Amini’s brother who was with her at the time of her arrest had tried to resist but the arresting officers used tear gas.
A photo of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on the hospital bed shows her unconscious with very clear signs of bleeding from her right ear. Several doctors including Mahdiar Saeedian, editor of a health magazine, have pointed out on social media that brain strokes do not cause otorrhagia (hemorrhage from ears) which proves that her coma was caused by trauma to the head, possibly at the time of her arrest.
Dr Alan Tofighi, a Paris-based physician and activist, also told Iran International TV that collapsing a few hours after head trauma with no apparent symptoms is very common.
Iran’s government which is now fully controlled by hardliners has adopted a harsher than usual approach amid economic crisis and hardship for tens of millions. Government and military officials have warned the population against disobeying hijab rules and hijab enforcement patrols have detained many women, sometimes violently, on the streets.