The U.N. human rights office is calling for a prompt, impartial investigation into the death of a young Iranian woman arrested by the so-called morality police for allegedly wearing an improper hijab.
Iran’s morality police arrested Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from the minority Kurdish community September 13 in the capital, Tehran, for not wearing the hijab properly.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says she fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at the Vozara Detention Center. She says Amini died three days later.
“There are reports that Ms. Amini was beaten on the head with a baton, and her head was banged against the vehicle by so-called morality police," she said. "Authorities have stated that she died of natural causes… In recent months, the so-called morality police have expanded street patrols, subjecting women perceived to be wearing a “loose hijab” to verbal and physical harassment and arrest.”
Shamdasani says the human rights office has received many videos of violent treatment of women. The abuse included police slapping women across the face and beating them with batons while being thrown into police vans.
Amini’s death has triggered large-scaled protests across the country. Security forces reportedly have responded with live ammunition, pellet guns, and tear gas. Between two and five people reportedly have been killed, several injured and many arrested.
Shamdasani says it appears Amini was subjected to multiple forms of discrimination because she was a member of the Kurdish community.
“There are conflicting stories about this—whether she was in fact dressed appropriately in accordance with those rules but there were other reasons why she was arrested, whether it was, in fact a matter of discrimination," she said. "But the bottom line is that these rules should not exist. Women should not be punished for what they are wearing…and there needs to be a clear investigation.”
Shamdasani says the government has responded to these calls. She says Iran’s president has called for a careful investigation into Mahsa Amini’s death as has Iran’s judiciary chief.
She notes, however, that Iran’s initial reaction to this case was to claim Amini died of a heart attack. This, despite medical records and witness testimony that show the contrary. She adds this is very worrying.