A 22-year-old Iranian woman died after being arrested for allegedly violating strict hijab rules — sparking protests against the Islamic Republic’s morality police.
Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran on Tuesday while traveling with her family from the western province of Kurdistan to visit relatives, according to the BBC.
Witnesses accused police of beating Amini inside a van as she was led to a detention center. The young woman died at a hospital Friday after three days in a coma.
Authorities had accused Amini of breaking the law requiring women to cover their hair with a headscarf, and their arms and legs with loose clothing.
Her death sparked widespread demonstrations in Tehran and the Kurdistan province where she lived in Saqez, the news outlet reported.
Amnesty International said Amini had been arrested in an “an arbitrary arrest,” the Guardian reported.
On Monday, protesters flung rocks at security forces in the town of Divandarreh in the Kurdish region, footage posted on Twitter by Kurdish rights group Hengaw showed, Reuters reported. The news outlet could not verify the authenticity of the video.
The Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini reached nearly 2 million Twitter mentions amid the backlash.
Police called Amini’s death an “unfortunate incident,” according to Reuters, which cited a semi-official news agency.
On Monday, police denied accusations of mistreatment of the woman and said she fell ill as she waited with other women being held by the morality police.
Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi pushed back against “cowardly accusations,” insisted that Amini suffered no physical harm and said police had “done everything” to keep her alive.
“This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents,” Rahimi said in a statement reported by the Fars news agency.
Police released a video showing a woman identified as Amini walking into a room and sitting down with other people. It fast-forwards to show her talking to someone who was inspecting her clothing as she stands.
The woman then raises her hands to her head and collapses, the video reportedly shows.
Rahimi said medical personnel arrived within a minute and that he could not comment on the cause of death because it involved a medical issue.
Amini’s father told the pro-reform Emtedad news outlet on Sunday that his daughter had no health problems.
Masoud Barzani, former president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, has sent condolences to Amini’s family, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Iranian protest Twitter account posted video showing what it said was a protest at a Tehran university against the paramilitary militia force known as Basij.
“I will kill the one who killed my sister … By cannon, tank or firecracker, clerics get lost,” protesters chanted.
The morality police enforce strict dress rules for women imposed since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.