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Iran: Protests rage over death of woman arrested for 'bad hijab'

Twenty-two-year old Mahsa Amini's death after being detained for 'bad hijab' has sparked outcry at laws enforcing headscarves in Iran
Students at Allameh Tabataba'i University protesting in Iran's capital Tehran following the controversial death of a young Kurdish woman held in custody by the 'morality police', 19 September 2022 (AFP)

Demonstrations have been continuing in Iran over the death of a young woman after she was detained for "bad hijab".

Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran last week when the special police unit that monitors women's clothing arrested her for alleged improper wearing of the headscarf, an item of clothing which is mandatory for women in Iran.

Tehran police said in a statement on Thursday that, while in custody, Amini had "suddenly suffered from a heart problem" and was "immediately taken to hospital".

On Friday it was announced that she had died there.

While the police said there had been no "physical contact" between Amini and the officers, a number of campaigners said she had been tortured while in custody. Prominent lawyer Saeed Dehghan said Amini had received fractures to her skull and described her death as "murder".

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Since then anger has mounted across the country, particularly in Amini's native Kurdistan province, with women and men taking to the streets demanding the end of the "morality police" and the law mandating headscarves for women.

Protests have continued both on the streets and online.

#MahsaAmini became one of the top-trending hashtags ever on Persian-language Twitter, garneing 1.63 million mentions.

Meanwhile, videos posted online appeared to show hundreds of protesters gathering on Sunday around the University of Tehran shouting, "Woman, life, freedom".

Another demonstration took place on Sunday evening in Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan province, while videos posted by the opposition social media account 1500tasvir showed protesters clashing with police.

A number of women online began posting videos of themselves cutting their hair and burning their headscarves in protest at Amini's death.

Another video showed women at Amini's funeral in Kurdistan taking off their headscarves and spinning them around their heads while chanting "death to the dictator".

Boiling rage

The Iranian government has moved to try and quell anger over the death of Amini.

President Ebrahim Raisi, who since his election last year has tightened enforcement of the headscarf law, reportedly spoke with Amini's family by phone on Sunday.

"Your daughter is like my own daughter, and I feel that this incident happened to one of my loved ones. Please accept my condolences," state media reported him as saying.

On Monday, a number of Iranian outlets reported that Colonel Mirzaei, head of the Moral Security Police of Greater Tehran, had been suspended from his role. Tehran police later denied this, however.

Mahsa Alimardani, an internet researcher focusing on freedom of expression and access to information online in Iran, told Middle East Eye on Saturday that the death of Amini had provoked an unprecedented backlash.

"I’m seeing women who are never even political or neutral about the hijab disturbed by what happened to Mahsa because it could have happened to literally anyone," she said.

"I am seeing calls to remove mandatory hijab and disband the morality police en masse. There has never been a more unanimous call for removing this infrastructure and law for enforcing mandatory hijab."

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