(Bloomberg) — Violence erupted in Iran’s capital over the death in custody of a 22-year-old woman detained by authorities who monitor how women dress.
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Riot police used water cannons and fired tear gas to disperse crowds after hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Tehran on Monday amid anger sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini last week.
Videos on social media showed protesters chanting “death to the dictator” and “I will kill the one who killed my sister” against a backdrop of armed cops and black police vans.
Other images included a burning dumpster and a police motorcycle in flames. The videos could not be independently verified by Bloomberg.
There were also demonstrations at major universities in Tehran, Tasnim reported, as riots broke out over the weekend in Amini’s hometown of Saghez in northwestern Iran’s Kurdistan province, where she was buried on Saturday.
In a statement, Tehran police said Amini suffered “heart failure” on Friday while in a coma after being detained by officers from the city’s so-called morality unit.
Police Chief General Hossein Rahimi called her death an “unfortunate incident” and ruled out any misconduct by his staff, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. The Iranian parliament has said it is investigating.
Donya-e-Eqtesad newspaper quoted Amini’s father, Amjad Amini, as saying she had no pre-existing illness when she was detained. He accused the authorities of beating her and then covering up their actions. “We are not letting her blood go in vain,” the newspaper told him.
Iran’s ‘morality police’ is cracking down on clothing that they believe violates Islamic codes. But critics say their approach is arbitrary and that they embody the efforts of the government of the Islamic Republic to impose harsh religious beliefs on women and girls.
In a tweet, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “Mahsa Amini should be alive today. Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her. We call on the Iranian government to end the systematic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest.”
The US and Iran have been mired in a months-long standoff over diplomatic efforts to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The internet was disrupted in parts of Kurdistan province as the protests took place, digital watchdog group NetBlocks said. Residents near the demonstrations and in Tehran also reported connectivity issues. Internet outages during times of protest in Iran are common.
Tehran’s police chief Rahimi said Amini had been arrested because her “leggings were problematic,” according to comments in the Shargh Daily newspaper.
Since the 1979 revolution, women in Iran have been subject to mandatory Islamic dress codes that prescribe a “chador” – a black cloak that wraps the body from head to toe – or long, loose-fitting overcoats and tightly worn headscarves.
Over the years, however, enforcement of the rules has fluctuated and women have cautiously pushed the boundaries of what is permissible. Especially in urban centers, loose headscarves and leggings with oversized robes are common — similar to the clothes Amini appeared to be wearing in CCTV footage shot inside the police station and broadcast on state television.
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