DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s president has ordered an investigation into the case of a young woman who fell into a coma while in custody in Tehran and died, state media reported Friday. Police said he suffered a heart attack.
According to state news agency IRNA, President Ebrahim Raisi asked Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi to “investigate the causes of the incident with urgency and special attention.”
According to reports on social media, Mahsa Amini, 22, was arrested earlier this week by the so-called “morality police” after officers apparently found a fault with her headscarf or hijab.
The headscarf has been compulsory for women in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and members of the morality police enforce the strict dress code.
Police said Thursday that Amini, who was arrested on Tuesday, was taken to a hospital after reportedly suffering a heart attack while in custody. Pro-reform news sites cited an uncle of Amini who said she had no history of heart disease.
On Friday, police said there was no violence or physical contact between officers and Amini while she was in custody. Police also showed CCTV footage that appeared to show Amini inside a police station, along with other detainees.
At one point she gets up from a chair, goes to talk to another woman, then holds her head with both hands, trips over a chair and collapses. In the next part of the footage, she is being carried away on a stretcher.
The official website of Iran’s judiciary, Mizan.news, reported that Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Ali Salehi, had ordered a police forensic team to look into the medical aspects of the case.
Iran’s morality police have come under fire in recent years for their treatment of people, particularly young women, and videos posted on social media show officers forcing women into police vehicles.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has advocated a softer stance towards women who do not conform to the official dress code.
However, hardliners have called for harsh punishment, even flogging, arguing that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral decay and the breakup of families. The judiciary in recent years has urged the public to inform women who do not wear the hijab.
Since 2017, after dozens of women took off their headscarves in public in a wave of protests, the authorities adopted tougher measures.
Amini’s case has drawn condemnation from Iranian celebrities, athletes and other public figures.
Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami said the behavior of the morality police was a “disaster”, while outspoken politician and former MP Mahmoud Sadeqi called on Khamenei to speak publicly about Amini’s case.
Popular former soccer player Ali Karimi tweeted that while the children of high-ranking officials are leaving the country, “our children are dying.”
Hossein Mahini, another former footballer, said in a tweet, addressing the morality police: “We hate you.”
The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Maley, tweeted that Amini’s death “in custody for an ‘improper’ hijab is horrific” and added: “Those responsible for her death must be held accountable.”