Fresh protests erupted in Iran on Monday over the death of a young woman who had been arrested by “morality police” enforcing a strict dress code, local media reported.
Public outrage has grown since authorities announced on Friday the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in hospital after three days in a coma after she was arrested by Tehran’s morality police during a visit to the capital on the 13 September.
Protests were held in Tehran, including several universities, and in the second city of Mashhad, according to Fars and Tasnim news agencies.
Protesters marched on Hijab Street — or “headscarf street” — in central Tehran to denounce the morality police, ISNA news agency reported.
“Several hundred people shouted slogans against the authorities, some of them took off their hijabs,” Fars said, adding that “police arrested many people and dispersed the crowd using batons and tear gas.”
A short video released by Fars showed a crowd of several dozen people, including women who had removed their headscarves, chanting “Death to the Islamic Republic!”
A “similar gathering” took place in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Tasnim news agency reported.
On Sunday, police made arrests and fired tear gas in the dead woman’s province of Kurdistan, where about 500 people had protested, some smashing car windows and setting garbage cans on fire.
– Anger –
Police ethics units enforce a dress code in the Islamic Republic that requires women to wear headscarves in public.
It also prohibits tight pants, ripped jeans, clothing that exposes the knees and brightly colored clothing.
Police insisted there was “no physical contact” between the officers and the victim.
Tehran police chief General Hossein Rahimi said on Monday that the woman had violated the dress code and that his colleagues had asked her relatives to bring her “decent clothes”.
He again rejected “unfair accusations against the police” and said “the evidence shows that there was no negligence or misconduct on the part of the police”.
“This is an unfortunate incident and we hope to never see such incidents again.”
Students rallied at Tehran and Shahid Beheshti universities, demanding “clarification” of how Amini died, according to Fars and Tasnim news agencies.
A spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Amini’s “unacceptable” death was a “murder” following the injuries she suffered in police custody.
The perpetrators must be held accountable and the Iranian authorities must respect the rights of its citizens, the spokesman added in a statement.
France said her death was “deeply shocking” and called for a “transparent investigation … to shed light on the circumstances of this tragedy.”
Amini’s death has reignited calls to relax morality policing against women suspected of breaking the dress code, in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Filmmakers, artists, athletes and political and religious figures have taken to social media to express their outrage.
President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative former head of the judiciary who came to power last year, ordered an investigation into Amini’s death.
– Distraught Father –
State television aired a short surveillance video on Friday that showed a woman identified as Amini collapsing at the police station after an argument with a policewoman.
Amjad Amini, the victim’s father, told Fars that he “did not accept what (the police) showed him”, claiming that “the tape has been cut”.
He also criticized the “slow response” of emergency services, adding: “I believe Mahsa was taken to hospital late.”
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Saturday that he received reports that emergency services arrived “immediately” at the scene.
“Mahsa apparently had previous physical problems and we have reports that she had undergone brain surgery at the age of five,” Vahidi said.
Her father, however, “insists that his daughter had no history of illness and was in perfect health,” Fars reported.