Death of Iranian woman mobilizes critics of ‘morality police’

Death of Iranian woman mobilizes critics of ‘morality police’

As Iran is reeling from the death of a woman after she was arrested by its “morality police”, the Sunday front page of the financial newspaper Asia declared: “Dear Mahsa, your name will become a symbol.”

The police unit — which is responsible for enforcing Iran’s strict dress code for women, particularly the wearing of headscarves in public — had already faced growing criticism in recent months for excessive use of force.

The death of Mahsa Amini, 22, has reignited calls for a rein in its actions against women suspected of breaking the dress code, which has been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The day after her funeral, almost the entire Iranian press devoted their front pages to her story on Sunday.

“The nation mourned the sad death of Mahsa,” said the front page of the ultra-conservative Javan newspaper.

Originally from the northwestern Kurdistan province, Amini was visiting her family in the capital Tehran when she was arrested on Tuesday.

She was pronounced dead on state television on Friday after spending three days in a coma. Soon after, a crowd gathered outside Kasra Hospital in central Tehran.

In her hometown of Saghez, where her body was laid to rest on Saturday, some residents threw stones at the governor’s office and shouted slogans against the authorities, according to the Fars news agency.

“The world is shocked and outraged by what happened to Mahsa Amini,” the reformist publication Etemad noted, saying the country had suffered “multiple cases of violence by the morality police.”

The moderate Jomhouri-e Eslami newspaper warned of “social fragmentation” caused by the “violent behavior” of the unit’s officers.

– Conservatives push back –

President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative former head of the judiciary who came to power last year, ordered an investigation into Amini’s death.

The official state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday that Raisi promised the family in a phone call that he would follow up on the case, telling them “your daughter is like my own daughter and I feel like this incident happened to one of my relatives.” .

However, some of the more conservative media tried to push back the barrage of criticism.

Iran’s state-run daily accused the reformers of “taking advantage of public sentiment by using an unfortunate incident to incite the nation against the government and the president.”

An ultra-conservative newspaper, Kayhan, claimed that “the number of rumors and lies spread after Mahsa’s death has increased significantly.”

“However, the police’s release of images of this incident has prevented opportunists from exploiting it,” the paper claimed.

She was referring to a short surveillance video broadcast Friday by state television that purportedly showed her falling to the ground inside a large room full of women while arguing with one of the female trainers over clothing.

In a statement on Friday, Tehran police insisted there was “no physical encounter” between officers and Amini.

The head of Tehran’s coroner’s office on Saturday told state television that investigations into the cause of death would take up to three weeks to complete.

– 1.5 million tweets –

Filmmakers, artists, athletes and political and religious figures have taken to social media to express their anger against the morality police, both at home and abroad.

Former president and reformer Mohammad Khatami called on authorities to “put an end to actions against law, reason and sharia,” or Islamic law, and “bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, a cleric considered close to the reformers, denounced what he said were “illegal” and “unlawful” actions behind “this sad incident”.

“The Koran clearly forbids the use of violence” to enforce religious and moral values, he said.

Two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi said that “Mahsa is now more alive than us” because “we are silent in the face of such limitless cruelty. We are complicit in this crime.”

“Our girls’ hair is covered with a shroud,” several Iranian national team soccer players wrote in a joint story shared on Instagram.

“If these are Muslims, God make me an infidel,” accused Sardar Azmoun, who plays for German club Bayer Leverkusen.

On Twitter, the hash-tag #Masha_Amini had counted almost 1.5 million tweets by noon on Sunday.

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