Iran is facing some of its worst unrest in years as protests erupt over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the state’s morality police.
Mahsa Amini had been arrested for allegedly wearing a hijab inappropriately, in violation of Iran’s strict dress code.
Amini died three days after collapsing in a detention center in Tehran, and reports say she was “severely beaten” while in custody, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office. Iranian authorities claimed Amini died of a heart attack and the UN office called for an investigation.
Anger has engulfed the country in the week since Amini’s death, and the capital Tehran is in turmoil as Iran’s police and the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard reportedly try to control the protests “with live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas,” according to with the UN. .
Thousands of protesters in cities across Iran are said to have taken part in the demonstrations so far.
At least nine people were killed in the fighting, although the toll on Iran’s state television reportedly put the number at 17, according to CBS. Other estimates suggest the number may be even higher.
The protests have garnered international attention, and international leaders — including some in the United States — have moved to condemn Iran for both its treatment of women and its response to the protesters.
“The Iranian government must stop the systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest. The United States will continue to express our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them accountable,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned the ethics police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters,” claiming in a statement that the police were responsible for Amini’s death.
“We condemn this senseless act in the strongest possible terms and call on the Iranian government to end violence against women and its continued violent crackdown on free expression and assembly,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The ministry also sanctioned seven Iranian security chiefs for overseeing the violence.
President Biden cited the ongoing protests in remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
“Today, we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are currently protesting to secure their basic rights.”
Biden also underscored the longstanding U.S. effort to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
“We will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon … We cannot let the world now slide backwards, nor can we turn a blind eye to the erosion of human rights,” Biden said.
The administration is working to revive the nuclear deal that former President Trump withdrew from in 2015.
A panel of UN experts said Amini “is yet another victim of Iran’s ongoing repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of their physical autonomy and freedoms of opinion, expression and of beliefs”.
Women in Iran are burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in protest against restrictive modesty requirements.
In 2017, the head of the morality police announced that arrests based on the dress code would cease, but the practice appears to have resumed under current Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, according to the Associated Press.
CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour on Thursday was scheduled to give Raisi’s first U.S. soil interview during the United Nations General Assembly.
The plan backfired when Amanpour refused Raisi’s insistence that she wear a headscarf during the on-camera interview.
“As the protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it would be an important time to speak with President Raishi,” Amanpour he said on Twitter.
Iran is no stranger to protests within its borders. Unrest broke out in 2019 due to high fuel prices in the country, and protests increased in 2021 over water and electricity shortages.
As Iran tries to control the protests, the internet has been shut down in some places and access to platforms such as WhatsApp has been blocked, stifling protesters’ ability to communicate and share information on social media.
Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, saying Iran “rejects some of the double standards and measures of some governments in relation to human rights,” but did not directly mention the ongoing protests at home.
For the latest news, weather, sports and video streaming, head to The Hill.