The president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, said this Friday, 23, that the death of Mahsa Amini, which took place while the young woman was in the custody of the moral police, “must certainly be investigated”. The incident sparked a wave of protests across the country, claiming that the 22-year-old Kurdish woman died after being assaulted by security forces.
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In a press conference after her speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, 21, Raisi said she had contacted Amini’s family, and that the case was in the hands of the judiciary.
“I contacted her family at the earliest opportunity and assured them that we would continue to firmly investigate this incident… Our biggest concern is safeguarding the rights of all citizens,” he said.
The Iranian president lamented the repercussions of the police repression of the protests that swept the Islamic Republic after the young woman’s death. Addressing the authorities present at the United Nations meeting, Raisi argued that similar incidents also occur in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Every day, in different countries, including the United States, we see men and women dying in police clashes, but there is no sensitivity about the cause and how to deal with this violence,” he added.
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The head of state called for Iran to be judged by the “same standard” as the West in cases of deaths at the hands of the authorities.
Human rights groups estimate that at least 36 people have died in six days of protests in response to Amini’s death on 16 September.
Masha Amini was detained by morality police in the Kurdistan region on September 13 for allegedly wearing the hijab, the headscarf that covers the head of Islamic women, in an “improper manner”. The young woman died three days later in police custody.
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Authorities claimed the young man suffered a heart attack in prison. However, activists and Amini’s family suspect she suffered a blow to the head that would have resulted in head trauma.
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Despite confirming the police version, claiming that the initial forensic examination points out that the woman died of heart failure or stroke, and not due to alleged aggression, the Iranian leader promised justice for the case.
“If her death was due to negligence, it will definitely be investigated, and I promise to follow the matter, regardless of whether international forums take a stand or not,” Raisi told the press.
The protests that have been taking place for six days in more than 12 cities in Iran have no organized leadership. While the focus initially was on women’s right not to wear the hijab in public, or on cases of morality police assault, there were broader calls for freedom and even the overthrow of the regime.
On Thursday 22, outraged protesters set fire to police stations and vehicles in several regions of the country. In an attempt to contain the protests, the country’s government turned off the internet in parts of the capital, Tehran, and Kurdistan, in addition to blocking access to platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
In solidarity with the young woman killed for allegedly breaking the country’s traditional dress code, Iranian women took to the streets to burn their scarves and cut their hair.
The country’s president, a former hardline judiciary chief accused of sending hundreds of people to their deaths in the past, said Iran would not tolerate “acts of chaos” but said his country accepted legal protests.
The judiciary has ordered the courts to take a hard line on the protesters, claiming the protests are being led by foreign agents and instigated by anti-Iranian social media platforms.
The Iranian army said on Friday that it would “confront the enemies” to ensure security, the harshest warning yet for protesters.
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