Iran Protest Over Woman's Death in Police Custody Turns Violent

  • In World
  • 2022-09-20 08:46:26Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Violence erupted in Iran's capital over the death in custody of a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by authorities that police how women dress.

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Riot police used water cannon and fired tear gas to disperse crowds after hundreds of demonstrators skirmished with security forces in Tehran on Monday, amid anger sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini last week.

Videos posted on social media showed protesters chanting "death to the dictator" and "I'll kill whoever killed my sister" against a backdrop of armed officers and black police vans.

Other footage included a burning dumpster and a police motorbike in flames. The videos couldn't be independently verified by Bloomberg.

There were also rallies at major universities in Tehran, Tasnim reported, while clashes broke out over the weekend in Amini's hometown of Saghez in Kurdistan province in northwest Iran, where she was buried on Saturday.

In a statement, Tehran police said Amini suffered "heart failure" on Friday while in a coma following her detention by officers of the city's so-called morality unit.

Police chief General Hossein Rahimi called her death an "unfortunate incident," ruling out any wrongdoing by his personnel, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. Iran's parliament has said it is investigating.

The Donya-e-Eqtesad newspaper cited Amini's father, Amjad Amini, as saying that she had no preexisting illness when detained. He accused authorities of beating her and then covering up their actions. "We won't let her blood go in vain," the daily reported him as saying.

Iran's "morality police" crack down on dress they say violates Islamic codes. But critics say their approach is arbitrary and that they embody efforts by the Islamic Republic's government to enforce hardline religious beliefs on women and girls.

In a tweet, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said "Mahsa Amini should be alive today. Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest."

The US and Iran are engaged in a monthslong standoff over diplomatic efforts to revive Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

The internet was disrupted in parts of Kurdistan province as the protests took place, digital watchdog group NetBlocks said. Residents near the demonstrations and in Tehran also reported connectivity issues. Internet disruptions during times of protest in Iran are common.

Rahimi, Tehran's police chief, said Amini was arrested as her "leggings were problematic," according to comments published in the Shargh Daily newspaper.

Women in Iran have been subject to mandatory Islamic dress codes since the 1979 revolution that stipulate a "chador" -- a black cloak that envelopes the body from head to toe -- or long, loose-fitting overcoats and tightly-worn head scarves.

Over the years, though, enforcement of the rules has fluctuated and women have gently challenged the boundaries of what's permissible. In urban centers in particular, loose head scarves and leggings worn with oversized robes are common -- similar to the clothes Amini appeared to be wearing in CCTV footage recorded inside the police station and broadcast on state TV.

(Add details on Amini, reports of internet disruption.)

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