Thousands took to the streets in several Iranian cities Sunday to protest the death of a young woman in religious police custody that has shaken the country.
In Sanandaj, capital of Iran's Kordestan (Kurdistan) Province, and Saqqez, a city of around 170,000 in the same province, thousands took to the streets for a second night. Protesters in Sanandaj chanted “Kordestan, Graveyard of Fascists” and “Down with the Dictator”, in Kurdish and Persian.
The 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, known as Zhina to family, originally from Saqqez, collapsed at a detention center two hours after her arrest by a hijab police patrol in Tehran. She passed away Friday afternoon at Kasra Hospital in northern Tehran. Hospital staff told Iran International that she was brought in near death in a coma with what appeared to have been multiple blows to her head.
According to some reports nearly 40 protesters in Saqqez Saturday evening were wounded by security forces who used shotguns and tear gas against protesters with at least two young men in critical condition.
On Sunday, Police used tear gas and water canons to disperse protesters in Sanandaj and fired with shotguns at protesters again, reportedly wounding at least ten people, and arrested over a dozen.
People also took to the streets in Gohardasht district of Karaj, capital of Alvand Province only half an hour from the capital Tehran and in Mahabad, a city of around 170,000 in West Azarbaijan Province, with a majority Kurdish population.
According to Hengaw Human Rights Organization, a Kurdish rights group, security forces shot at protesters in Sanandaj, wounding at least nine people including two women.
In the capital Tehran, dozens of students marched inside the campus of Tehran University Sunday and chanted “Iran Is Bleeding, from Kordestan to Tehran”. Some students carried placards with “Women, Life, Freedom” and. “I Don’t Want to Die” written on them.
Many female protesters have been removing their headscarves in defiance of compulsory hijab and some women have posted photos and videos on social media showing them cutting their own hairor burning their headscarves.
President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday made a phone call to the family of Mahsa Amini and told them he considered their daughter and “all Iranian girls” as his own children and had ordered a thorough investigation of the incident.
Authorities have so far denied any wrongdoing and not taken any responsibility for the young woman’s death. Police say she died in custody from a “heart attack” but have had very little success in convincing millions of Iranians who know violence against women arrested for hijab is quite common.
Mahsa’s father has told the media that other women arrested at the same time as his daughter say she was beaten but do not dare to come forward.
Kurdish activists and political groups have urged people in Kurdish regions of western Iran to shut their shops on Monday in protest to the violence against women. According to Hengaw, security forces have threatened most businesses in the large western city of Kermanshah, not to join the strike called in the neighboring Kordestan Province.
Various rights and political groups have issued statements over the incident which many consider “state violence”.
“The murder of our daughter, Mahsa, is a manifestation of the gradual killing levied on all of us on a daily basis and at a societal level,” a group of workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex in southwestern Iran which has one of the most organized and active labor rights groups in the country, said in a statement on their Telegram channel. “The state’s murder of Mahsa won’t remain without res