UN experts call for investigation into death of teenage girl on Tehran subway

Iranian authorities claim 16-year-old Armita Geravand suffered brain damage from her fall

Protesters run as they clash with police over the death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini. EPA
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UN experts on Thursday called for an independent investigation into the death of a teenage Iranian girl who went into a coma after she was allegedly assaulted by the country’s morality police for not wearing a headscarf.

Iranian authorities claim 16-year-old Armita Geravand suffered brain damage after falling on Tehran's Metro, which led to her death.

Women and girls should not be punished for wearing or not wearing any specific piece of clothing, and should certainly not be at risk of losing their lives for doing so,” the independent experts said in a statement.

Ms Geravand died just weeks after Iran implemented even harsher penalties for women violating the country’s already stringent hijab regulations.

Iran’s parliament in September passed a Chastity and Hijab Law imposing heavier penalties on women who refuse to wear the mandatory Islamic headscarf in public, following the first anniversary of mass protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Ms Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, died in September 2022 after her arrest for allegedly violating the country’s dress code. Her death in custody ignited months of protests across Iran.

“We are aware of reprisals against other women, including celebrities, for refusing to comply with the mandatory dress code,” the experts said.

“Even before the law was passed, there were increasing reports of women facing legal action for violating the dress code. Some have lost their jobs or been sentenced to jail, while others have been ordered to perform forced labour.”

The experts include Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and Reem Alsalem, special rapporteur on violence against women and girls.

What happened to Ms Geravand in the few seconds after she entered the train at the Meydan-E Shohada, or Martyrs’ Square, Metro station in southern Tehran on October 1 is unclear.

A friend told Iranian state television that she hit her head on the station’s platform, but video of the incident aired by state TV – taken from outside the train and without audio – is blocked by a bystander. Seconds later, her limp body is seen being carried away.

Campaigners abroad have alleged that Ms Geravand may have been pushed or attacked because she was not wearing the hijab.

Tehran has introduced several rules clamping down on women’s freedoms in recent months, including barring women without the hijab from universities and their workplaces.

Authorities have confiscated vehicles from women driving without a hijab after cameras were installed to track drivers within their own cars.

Under the new law, they will face a fine of five million rials, or around $118.

The UN experts also expressed “concern and disappointment” at the failure of the Iranian regime to conduct independent investigations into the deaths of women and girls during the nationwide protests.

Tehran's clerical rulers view the hijab law as a key pillar of Iran and blamed the protests on the West.

Updated: November 02, 2023, 2:41 PM