Iranian security forces opened fire on Saturday at a crowd of protesters mourning the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by the “Command Patrol,” a police unit responsible for enforcing mandatory hijab rules.
At least 13 people were injured, one in critical condition, after riot police opened fire and threw gas canisters at a protest site outside the governor’s office in Mahsa’s hometown, according to Hengaw, a media organization that monitors the human rights situation in Iran. the Kurdish city of Saghez.
The violence occurred as security officials rushed the woman’s funeral early Friday morning in anticipation of protests. Roads to Saghez were also closed to bar mourners from neighboring towns from entering, while internet connectivity was severely disrupted. local activists reported on social media, adding that intelligence officials had confiscated cellphones belonging to the late woman’s family members.
“Death to the dictator”, the protesters you could hear her singingwhich repeats a slogan that has become increasingly central to the Iranian protests in recent years and which appears to be aimed at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A video also showed a Khamenei banner, which was torn up by some protesters. And defying the strict hijab law, some women lifted their headscarves during the funeral and dismissed this as “humiliation”.
The hardliner version
The protests were temporarily reported by some pro-government media, including the Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). “The rallies fell silent after police tear gas was released,” Fars said.
The news outlet had previously insisted that the woman had suffered a heart attack. It cited an “informed medical source” who said she already suffered from background health issues with a history of epilepsy.
However, the Legal Medicine Organization has announced that its investigations to determine the exact causes of death are ongoing and will be submitted to the judiciary within three weeks.
And Kasra Hospital, where Mahsa was being treated in intensive care, has issued a statement saying the patient was already brain dead when admitted to the center.
Official narrative questioned
Mahsa was pronounced dead on Friday, two days after she fell into a coma following her arrest. The police immediately denied the allegations of torture and linked her death to a “sudden heart attack”.
Hours after Mahsa’s death, state television broadcast a short CCTV clip of an alleged “Hijab class” in which she sat with other jailed women to receive “instruction”. In the video, she appears to have passed out and collapsed on the floor while negotiating her release with a female staff member. However, the clip misses the moments of her arrest and the ride in the police van, leaving room for speculation by Iranians who have increased the likelihood of a life-threatening blow to the head and subsequent brain injury that later left her in a coma inside the police station.
The argument was supported by a picture of the bedridden victim showing swollen black eyes and bloodstains from her ears as symptoms of a traumatic brain injury at the base of the skull.
In an Instagram story posted on Saturday, the state TV host, who read a police statement on the video, further complicated the speculation. “I do believe that we journalists will not be punished in the afterlife for what we said, but for what we don’t have.”
The death even provoked reactions from certain sections of the clergy. “Whatever the cause of Mahsa Amini’s death, those behind the tragedy should be held accountable,” the Association of Combatant Clerics said in a statement.
Many are not convinced by the official explanations Iranian women shared together their personal experience of hijab police brutality Video was repeatedly reposted and featured a speech by Khamenei in which he seems to suggest that serious action against hijab violators is warranted.
Debate also continued as many dug up human rights abuses and the Islamic Republic’s shrugging off criticism, from other deaths in custody and the killing of protesters to the IRGC’s downing of a Ukraine Airlines plane in 2020, killing 176 people were killed on board, but was vehemently denied by the Iranian authorities for three days.
“You will live on as an icon”
For many Iranians, especially women, Mahsa appeared as an embodiment of their suffering, oppression and justice that remains unmatched.
“This infamous building will one day be remodeled and called ‘the Museum of Women’s Oppression.'” wrote an Iranian Twitter userwhich refers to a central Tehran police station where women arrested for hijab injuries are usually transferred, the same place where Mahsa collapsed.
“You did not die, you will live on as an icon,” read a photo of a handwritten message left on Mahsa’s grave that circulated on social media.