Mahsa Amini’s death in custody an ‘unfortunate incident’, say Iranian authorities

Iranian authorities said on Monday the death of a young woman in the custody of vice squads was an “unfortunate incident”.

Mahsa Amini, 22, fell into a coma and died after being arrested in Tehran last week, sparking demonstrations across the country against the security forces’ treatment of women.

“This incident was unfortunate for us and we never wish to witness such incidents,” Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi said in a statement to Fars News Agency.

According to Iranian law, women are required to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothing. Offenders can face public reprimand, fines or arrest.

But in recent months activists have urged women to remove the veil, despite hardline rulers’ crackdown on “immoral behavior”.

Mr Rahimi said Ms Amini was not ill-treated and denied claims made on social media against the vice squad.

“Cowardly accusations have been leveled against the Iranian police. We will wait until the day of the verdict, but we cannot stop doing security work,” Mr Rahimi said. He added that the vice squad is “doing positive work.”

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He said he could not comment on the cause of death as it was a medical rather than a safety issue.

Mahsa Amini on the front page of a newspaper in Tehran.  Photo: Majid Asgaripour

“No health problems”

But Ms Amini’s father told pro-reform news site Emtedad on Sunday that his daughter was fit and had no health problems, Reuters reported.

“Authorities have said my daughter has chronic medical conditions. I personally deny such claims as my daughter was fit and had no health issues,” he was quoted as saying.

Ms Amini was from the country’s Kurdistan province, one of the areas where protests took place over the weekend, including at the funeral in her hometown of Saqez.

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Between eight and ten million Kurds live in Iran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has quelled unrest in the country’s Kurdish areas for decades.

Meanwhile, there were reports of more protests on Sunday and #MahsaAmini became one of the most popular hashtags on Persian-speaking Twitter.

Iranian activists outside Iran have urged women to remove headscarves and cut their hair in solidarity with Ms Amini.

On Sunday, Iranian journalist and human rights activist Mashih Alinejad released footage of what she described as a protest at Tehran University in solidarity with Ms Amini. The National could not authenticate the footage.

The young woman was buried in her hometown on Sunday.

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Angry protesters reportedly marched to the local governor’s office to protest the death.

The BBC Persian Service reported on Sunday that it had verified videos showing security forces opening fire on protesters.

Internet connectivity has been cut in various places in Iran since news of Ms Amini’s death broke, Netblocks, a surveillance organization that oversees internet governance, tweeted on Saturday.

Many users said they cannot upload videos to Instagram or send content via WhatsApp.

Updated September 19, 2022 at 9:39 am

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