Harsh crackdown on Mahsa Amini’s death sparks protests in Iran

Security forces have cracked down on protesters demonstrating across Iran over the death of a young woman in the custody of the so-called morality police, which reportedly left five dead.

The death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from western Iran, during a visit to the capital this month has sparked outrage over the government’s increasingly strict enforcement of ultra-conservative dress codes for women. Amini was detained as she exited a subway station, and she suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma while in custody, state-affiliated media said. Her family insisted she had no previous health problems, and activists claimed she may have been beaten by the police.

Monday was the third day of unrest across Iran, with protests in numerous places, including the capital Tehran. Two people were killed when security forces fired on protesters in the Kurdish town of Saqez – Amini’s hometown – while two others died in the town of Divandarreh, and a fifth was killed in Dehgolan, according to hangawa rights watchdog. The claims could not immediately be independently verified by The Washington Post.

In Tehran, photos of the site of a protest showed protesters gathering around a burning motorcycle. Videos posted to social media appeared to show protesters injured after clashes with authorities. Internet access was limited in parts of the country.

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Iran has confirmed no deaths during the protests. The semi-official Fars News Agency reported that protesters had been dispersed by security forces in a number of cities and that the leaders of some protests had been arrested by the police.

A senior morals police officer, Colonel Ahmed Mirzaei, was suspended after Amini’s death, according to Iran International, a London-based news channel. Officials denied those claims, the Guardian reported. The Interior Ministry previously ordered an investigation into Amini’s death on behalf of arch-conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The police commander of the greater Tehran area told reporters that Amini was walking in a park wearing an inappropriate hijab. He said she did not resist detention and even joked in the police van. The headscarf and other conservative clothing have been compulsory for women since the 1979 revolution in Iran.

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Raisi is in New York this week where he will address the UN General Assembly on the country’s relations with the West. He told reporters at the Tehran airport that he has no plans to meet President Biden on the sidelines of the event, the Associated Press reported. Indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran to revive a 2015 nuclear deal appear to be on the brink of stalling.

Raisi, a hardline cleric who took office last year, has called for strict enforcement of the dress code. Last month, a video was released showing a woman detained by Iran’s increasingly assertive escort patrols being thrown from a speeding van.

The government’s crackdown this summer sparked a protest movement by Iranian women, who photographed themselves without headscarves and posted the photos on social media.

Kareem Fahim contributed to this report.

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