After the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody, Iranians across the country have taken to the streets to demand an investigation. In the capital Tehran alone, thousands of people gathered on Monday evening to denounce the death of Mahsa Amini. Security forces arrested some demonstrators, Iranian news agency Fars reported.
The young woman was arrested last Tuesday by the moral and religious police because of her "un-Islamic outfit". What exactly happened after that is unclear, but Amini fell into a coma and died in a hospital on Friday.
Many people also took to the streets in other cities in the Islamic Republic and in Amini's home province of Kurdistan. According to media reports, there were violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators. In several places, protesters chanted, "We're not afraid, we're all together," a slogan that became particularly popular during demonstrations following the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Amini's fate triggered great sympathy and dismay not only in Iran, but also beyond the country's borders. A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell demanded that those responsible for her death be held accountable and that the fundamental rights of all people in Iran be protected - including those of prisoners. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch called for the abolition of the vice squad and religiously based laws such as the correct wearing of headscarves.
On the Internet, many Iranians mourned the young woman who was arrested on Tuesday while visiting family in Tehran and taken to a police station. According to the police, she fainted there due to heart failure and then went into a coma. Her death was confirmed on Friday.
However, another version was also circulating online. After the arrest, her head was banged against the window in the police car, causing a cerebral hemorrhage. The police vehemently denied this account. After her death, the clinic where the 22-year-old was treated wrote in a now-deleted post on Instagram that Amini was already brain dead when she was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday.
The police and the government of the arch-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi have found themselves at a loss for explanations due to the death of the woman and the nationwide indignation. In addition to the outrage over the Amini case, the economic situation has been miserable for a long time. Many people are feeling the crisis hard in their everyday lives. Recently, the prospects of a revival of the nuclear deal with the West, which many Iranians hope will lead to sanctions being lifted, have also faded.
Iran has had strict dress codes since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In the metropolises and wealthier districts in particular, however, many women now see the rules as rather relaxed and, for example, only wear their headscarves loosely on the back of their heads – to the annoyance of ultra-conservative politicians. The government under President Raisi and religious hardliners in parliament have been trying for months to have Islamic laws applied more strictly. The vice police sometimes enforce the dress code with violence.