Iran faces growing international backlash after Mahsa Amini's death in custody

The 22-year-old was detained by morality police last week and later died

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Iran faced growing international criticism on Tuesday after the death of a woman in the custody of the morality police sparked three days of protests that have left at least three dead.

After officials downplayed and dismissed criticism over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, last Tuesday, saying it was an “unfortunate incident”, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited her family to offer condolences.

Abdolreza Pourzahabi reportedly spent two hours with Amini’s family and promised an investigation into her death, saying the supreme leader was “pained” by the incident.

The move was seen as an attempt to diffuse tensions after protesters chanted “death to the dictator” and other slogans targeting the country’s top leaders.

Authorities have said Amini fell ill as she waited with other women held by the morality police, who enforce strict rules requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes in public.

However, the UN’s acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al Nashif called for an investigation, and her office has warned that morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not properly wearing the hijab. It said verified videos show women being slapped in the face, struck with batons and thrown into police vans for wearing the hijab too loosely.

The US called on Tehran to end its “systemic persecution of women” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Amini “should be alive today.”

French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that he had brought up the need to protect women’s rights in talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The backlash grew as world leaders gathered in New York for the UN General Assembly and may overshadow Mr Raisi’s visit as he seeks to focus on finalising the terms of a renewed nuclear accord with world powers.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian accused the US of shedding “crocodile tears” and said human rights were an inherent value and that an investigation would uncover the events of Amini’s death.

However, her father Amjad Amini told Iranian newspaper Donya-e-Eqtesad that witnesses saw her being shoved into a police car.

“I asked for access to [videos] from cameras inside the car as well as the courtyard of the police station, but they gave no answer,” he said.

He also accused the police of not transferring her to hospital quickly enough, saying she could have been resuscitated.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 5:59 PM
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