Iranian woman dies while detained by morality police

Rights activists have urged women to publicly remove their veils

Mahsa Amini, 22, passed away in Iran's Kasra Hospital after being arrested by morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.  Photo: Social Networks / ZUMA Press Wire / Shutterstock
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A young Iranian woman has died after falling into a coma following her detention by morality police enforcing Iran's strict hijab rules, in a case that has sparked protest on social media.

Iran's Ministry of Interior and Tehran's prosecutor launched investigations into the case of Mahsa Amini following a call from President Ebrahim Raisi, state media reported, but her uncle was quoted by news website Emtedad as saying that the 22-year-old had died after being taken to hospital following her detention at a morality police station.

State TV confirmed her death in a rolling news text without giving details.

Over the past few months, Iranian rights activists have urged women to publicly remove their veils, which puts them at risk of arrest, as hardline authorities work to crack down on “immoral behaviour”.

Police said Amini had suffered a heart attack after being taken to the station to be “convinced and educated”, state television said, denying allegations she was beaten.

Following the calls for anti-hijab protests, videos posted on social media showed cases of what appeared to be heavy-handed action by morality police units against women who had removed their head coverings.

On Friday, reformist politician Mahmoud Sadeghi, a former lawmaker, called on supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to speak out over Amini's case.

“What does the supreme leader, who rightfully denounced US police over the death of George Floyd, say about the Iranian police's treatment of Mahsa Amini?” Mr Sadeghi asked on Twitter.

In 2020, Mr Khamenei said Floyd's killing in police custody had exposed the “true nature” of US leaders.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley described Amini's death as "appalling" and called for those responsible to be held to account.

"Iran must end its violence against women for exercising their fundamental rights," Mr Malley wrote on Twitter.

A US State Department representative told The National that women in Iran should have the right to wear what they want, free from violence or harassment.

"Iran must end its use of violence against women for exercising their fundamental freedoms," the representative said.

Under Iranian law, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures. Those who violate these laws face public rebuke, fines or arrest.

Decades after the 1979 revolution, clerical rulers still struggle to enforce the law, with many women of all ages and backgrounds wearing tight-fitting, thigh-length coats and brightly coloured scarves pushed back to expose plenty of hair.

— With reporting from Reuters.

Updated: September 17, 2022, 9:13 AM