Iran police call woman's death unfortunate as protests persist
Agencies | Dubai
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
Iranian police said yesterday the death of a young woman in custody was an "unfortunate incident", a semi-official news agency reported, and denied accusations of mistreatment that fuelled a third day of protests against the authorities.
Mahsa Amini, 22, fell into a coma and died following her arrest in Tehran last week by the morality police, sparking demonstrations in Tehran and the Kurdistan province from which she came. Her death has been condemned nationwide, with the Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini reaching nearly 2 million Twitter mentions.
The most intense demonstrations have been in Iranian Kurdistan, where authorities have previously put down unrest among minority Kurds. On Monday, protesters threw rocks at security forces in the town of Divandarreh in the Kurdish region, a video posted on Twitter by Kurdish rights group Hengaw showed.
A widely-followed Iranian Twitter account that focuses on protests in Iran said shopkeepers had gone on strike in Kurdish cities. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video. The police have said Amini fell ill as she waited with other women being held by the morality police, who enforce strict rules imposed since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose fitting clothes in public.
But her father told pro-reform Emtedad news website on Sunday that his daughter had no health problems, adding that she had suffered bruises to her legs and that he held the police responsible for her death.
Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi said "cowardly accusations" had been made against Iranian police, that Amini suffered no physical harm, and the police had "done everything" to keep her alive.
"This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents," Rahimi said in the statement reported by the Fars news agency. The police screened a video showing a woman identified as Amini walking into a room and sitting down alongside others. It then fast-forwards to show her on her feet talking to someone who was inspecting part of her clothing. The woman then raised her hands to her head and collapsed.
Rahimi said paramedics arrived within one minute and that he could not comment on the cause of death because this was a medical issue. Offenders against Iran's sharia, or Islamic law, face public rebuke, fines or arrest. But activists have recently urged women to remove veils despite the hardline rulers' crackdown on "immoral behaviour".
An official organisation that promotes Islamic morals urged reform to the way Iran implements rules on hijab wearing, calling for less policing and more encouragement for women to abide by the rules.
Protests erupted on Saturday during Amini's funeral in her hometown of Saqez, with social media videos showing demonstrators chanting against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and women taking off headscarves.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have put down unrest in the country’s Kurdish areas for decades and many Kurdish activists have been sentenced to long jail terms or death. Videos shared on Twitter on Sunday showed protesters demonstrating in Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan province.
A video posted by Hengaw showed security forces in riot gear running down a street there, at least one of them firing what appeared to be a gun. Masoud Barzani, former president of Iraq's Kurdish region, sent condolences to Amini's family on Sunday, his Facebook page said.
The widely-followed Iranian protest Twitter account posted footage showing what it said was a protest at a Tehran university against the Basij, a paramilitary militia force. “I will kill the one who killed my sister ... By cannon, tank or firecracker, clerics get lost,” protesters chanted.