DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iranians took to the streets of the capital on Monday to protest the death of a young woman detained for violating the country’s conservative dress code.
The semi-official Fars news agency said students from many universities in Tehran gathered to protest and demanded an investigation into the death of Mahsa Amini and the dismantling of the morality police, who were holding her when she died.
Witnesses said protesters poured into Keshavarz Boulevard, a central artery, chanting “Death to the dictator.” They also chanted against the police and damaged a police vehicle. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Late Monday, Associated Press reporters saw burning trash cans and rocks scattered around some downtown intersections as the smell of tear gas wafted in the air. Police closed roads leading to central Vali-e Asr square. Plainclothes security forces and riot police groups were seen throughout the area, and mobile internet service was unavailable in central Tehran.
Dozens of demonstrators on motorcycles briefly appeared at a couple of intersections, knocking over trash cans and scanning against authorities before driving away.
Demonstrations continued in other cities
Videos circulating on social media, meanwhile, showed a third day of demonstrations in Kurdish cities in western Iran, as well as in the northern city of Rasht and a university in the central city of Isfahan. The Associated Press was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the images.
The vice squad arrested 22-year-old Amini last Tuesday for not covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf, also known as hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women.
Police say she died of a heart attack and deny that she was assaulted. They released closed-circuit video footage last week that supposedly shows the moment she collapsed. Her family says she had no history of heart problems.
Amini, who was Kurdish, was buried on Saturday in her home city of Saqez in western Iran. There, protests broke out after her funeral, and police fired tear gas on Saturday and Sunday to disperse protesters. Several protesters were arrested.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who left for New York on Monday to address the UN General Assembly, has ordered an investigation and promised to continue the matter in a phone call with Amini’s family. Justice has launched an investigation and a parliamentary committee is also investigating the incident.
The hijab has been mandatory for women in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the morality police is tasked with enforcing those and other restrictions. The power has been criticized in recent years, especially for its treatment of young women.
Dozens of women took off their headscarves in 2017 in protest. Iranians have also taken to the streets in recent years in response to an economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.