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Mahsa Amini: Raisi warns against ‘acts of chaos’, as US sanctions morality police

Iranian president warns protesters, after Washington punishes top security officials accused of violence against women
Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody (AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that “acts of chaos” are not acceptable, in a warning to protesters who have taken to the streets following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Speaking on Thursday at a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Raisi said he had ordered an investigation into Amini’s case. 

The Kurdish Iranian woman died in hospital after being arrested in Tehran last week by the special police unit that monitors women's clothing and looks out for "bad hijab".

Her death has sparked widespread protests across Iran, as anger mounts at the law imposing headscarves on women and the "morality police" used to enforce it.

"There is freedom of expression in Iran… but acts of chaos are unacceptable," said Raisi, adding that the international coverage of Amini’s case was due to "double standards". 

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"Every day in different countries, including the United States, we see men and women dying in police encounters, but there is no sensitivity about the cause and dealing with this violence," he claimed.

Tehran police said in a statement last Thursday that, while in custody, Amini had "suddenly suffered from a heart problem" and was "immediately taken to hospital". A day later, it was announced that she had died there.

While the police said there had been no "physical contact" between the 22-year-old and the officers, campaigners and family members 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".

Videos have shown women burning headscarves and protesters brawling with police.

At least 17 people have been killed during the demonstrations, including five security personnel, according to Iranian officials. Many have suggested the actual figure is higher.

On Wednesday, in an apparent bid to clamp down on the protesters, Iranians were cut off from the internet.

US sanctions morality police 

Earlier on Thursday, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police, holding it responsible for the death of Amini and accusing it of violence against women. It also alleged that the special unit had violated the rights of peaceful protesters. 

Washington sanctioned seven senior military and security officials, including Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, Iran’s morality police chief, and Kioumars Heidari, commander of the Iranian army's ground force. 

Iran’s minister of intelligence, the head of the morality police’s Tehran division, a deputy commander of the Basij militia and two law enforcement commanders were also designated. 

All property and interests in property of those sanctioned that fall under US jurisdiction was to be blocked and reported to the Treasury, and those facilitating significant transactions or services to them could face penalties, the department said. 

"Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in morality police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime's security forces against its own people," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

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