DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iranians took to the streets of the capital on Monday to protest the death of a young woman who had been detained for violating the country’s conservative dress code.
The semi-official Fars news agency said students in several Tehran universities had gathered in protest to demand an investigation into Mahsa Amini’s death and the dismantling of the morality police who were holding her when she died.
Witnesses said protesters poured into Keshavarz Street, a central avenue, chanting “Death to the dictator.” They also chanted against the police and damaged a police vehicle. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Late Monday, Associated Press reporters saw trash cans and burnt rocks strewn across some downtown intersections as the smell of tear gas spread in the air. The police closed off the roads leading to the central Wali Al-Asr Square. Plainclothes security forces and groups of riot police were seen across the area, and mobile internet service was disrupted in central Tehran.
Dozens of protesters on motorbikes briefly appeared at an intersection, overturning trash cans and chanting slogans against the authorities before speeding up.
Demonstrations continued in other cities
Videos circulating on social media showed the third day of demonstrations in Kurdish cities in western Iran, as well as the northern city of Rasht and a university in the center of Isfahan. The Associated Press was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the footage.
The morality police arrested Amini, 22, last Tuesday, for not covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women.
Police say she died of a heart attack and deny being mistreated. They released closed-circuit video footage last week showing the moment of its collapse. Her family says she has no heart problems.
Amini, who is Kurdish, was buried on Saturday in her hometown of Saqez in western Iran. Protests erupted there after her funeral and police fired tear gas to disperse protesters on Saturday and Sunday. Several protesters were arrested.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who left for New York on Monday to address the United Nations General Assembly, ordered an investigation and vowed to follow up on the case in a phone call to Amini’s family. The judiciary launched an investigation, and a parliamentary committee is also looking into the incident.
Hijab has been compulsory for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the morality police are tasked with enforcing this and other restrictions. The force has been criticized in recent years, especially for its treatment of young women.
Dozens of women took off their headscarves in protest in 2017. Iranians have also taken to the streets in recent years in response to an economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to Iran’s nuclear programme.
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