Iranian woman Mahsa Amini’s death in custody requires independent probe: UN official


A top United Nations official on Tuesday demanded an independent investigation into the death of an Iranian woman held by the country’s morality police, as authorities acknowledged making arrests at protests over the incident.

Mahsa Amini’s death has ignited demonstrations across the country, including the capital, Tehran, where demonstrators chanted against the government and clashed with police.

The UN Human Rights Office said Iran’s morality police have expanded their patrols in recent months, targeting women for not properly wearing the Islamic headscarf, known as hijab. It said verified videos show women being slapped in the face, struck with batons and thrown into police vans for wearing the hijab too loosely.

A similar patrol detained 22-year-old Amini on Sept. 13, taking her to a police station where she collapsed. She died three days later.

“Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent, competent authority,” said Nada al-Nashif, the acting UN high commissioner for human rights.

Iranian police have denied mistreating Amini and say she died of a heart attack. Authorities say they are investigating the incident.

“This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents,” Hossein Rahimi, Tehran police commander, said Monday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected the criticism, accusing the U.S. of “shedding crocodile tears.”

“An investigation was ordered into (the) tragic death of Mahsa, who, as (the) President said, was just like our own daughters,” he tweeted. “To Iran, human rights are of inherent value — unlike those who see it (as) a tool against adversaries.”


The police released closed-circuit video footage last week purportedly showing the moment Amini collapsed, but her family says she had no history of heart trouble.

U.S., France condemn death, morals police

Western governments have demanded accountability for Amini’s death, at the same time as Washington and a number of European countries hope to negotiate a new agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, after president Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the previous deal.

“Mahsa Amini should be alive today,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian rejected the criticism, accusing the U.S. of “shedding crocodile tears.”

“To Iran, human rights are of inherent value — unlike those who see it [as] a tool against adversaries,” he tweeted.

France condemned Amini’s arrest “and the violence that caused her death,” the foreign ministry said, calling for a transparent investigation.

Amjad Amini, her father, told an Iranian news website that witnesses saw her being shoved into a police car.

“I asked for access to [videos] from cameras inside the car as well as courtyard of the police station, but they gave no answer,” he said. He also accused the police of not transferring her to the hospital promptly enough, saying she could have been resuscitated.

Iranian Kurds angered

Amini said that when he arrived at the hospital he was not allowed to view the body, but managed to get a glimpse of bruising on her foot.

Authorities then pressured him to bury her at night, apparently to reduce the likelihood of protests, but Amini said the family convinced them to let them bury her at 8 a.m. instead.

In a photo taken Monday by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained outside Iran, a police motorcycle burns during an apparent protest in downtown Tehran related to the death of Mahsa Amini. (The Associated Press)

Amini’s death could raise tension between the establishment and the Kurdish minority.

Amini, who was Kurdish, was buried Saturday in her home city of Saqez in western Iran. Protests erupted there after her funeral and police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators on Saturday and Sunday. Several protesters were arrested.

The protests spread to Tehran and other cities on Monday. A news website affiliated with state TV said 22 people were arrested at a protest in the northern city of Rasht, the first official confirmation of arrests related to the protests.

State TV showed footage of protests on Monday, including images of two police cars with their windows smashed. It said the protesters torched two motorbikes as well, and that they burned Iranian flags in Kurdish areas and in Tehran.

The state-run broadcaster blamed the unrest on foreign countries and exiled opposition groups, accusing them of using Amini’s death as a pretext for more economic sanctions.

Minority Kurds, mainly Sunni Muslims in Shia-dominated Iran, live mostly in a mountainous region straddling the borders of Armenia, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Over the years, Kurdish claims have oscillated between full-on separatism and autonomy within a multi-ethnic Iranian state.

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