The White House on Monday assailed Iran’s crackdown on protests over the death of a young woman held in captivity by the country’s morality police for failing to properly cover her hair with a hijab.
“We’re alarmed and appalled by reports of security authorities responding to university students’ peaceful protests with violence and mass arrests,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with President Joe Biden to Puerto Rico, a U.S. island territory hit by Hurricane Fiona last month.
Jean-Pierre said university students in Iran are “rightly enraged” by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22. Jean-Pierre said the arrests of the demonstrators are the type of events that prompt young people in Iran to leave the country “and seek dignity and opportunity elsewhere.”
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the widespread protests following the death in police custody of a young woman last month are not the actions of “ordinary Iranians” as he accused the United States and Israel of planning the demonstrations.
The protests, now in their third week, have been met with a crackdown by police and security forces. A tally of government statements compiled by The Associated Press gave a death toll of at least 14 people with 1,500 arrests, while rights groups say at least 130 are dead with thousands arrested.
Khamenei said the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was a “sad incident” and that he was heartbroken.
Iran’s morality police arrested Amini in Tehran for allegedly not following the country’s strict dress code and she died in a hospital three days later after falling into a coma.
The government said she died of a heart attack. Her family rejected that account, saying Amini had no history of heart problems and that she was instead beaten. They called for accountability.
Thousands of people gathered in several countries Sunday to condemn Iran’s crackdown on protests in that country that began after the death of Amini.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week, “The only reason she’s not [alive] is because a brutal regime took her life and took her life because of decisions she should be making about what she would wear or not wear.”
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.