Controversy sparked on social media after a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died after slipping into a coma following her detention by Iran’s morality police, a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women, such as wearing the compulsory headscarf, media reports said.
As per Al Jazeera, Mahsa Amini, 22, was on a visit to Tehran with her family when she was detained by the specialist police unit. After a while, she suffered a heart attack and was immediately taken to hospital with the cooperation of the emergency services. “Unfortunately, she died and her body was transferred to the medical examiner’s office,” state television said on Friday, reported Al Jazeera. The announcement came a day after Tehran police confirmed Amini had been detained with other women for “instruction” about the rules.
Human rights activists who have spoken to the family said the police grabbed Amini and forced her inside a police vehicle, CNN reported quoting IranWire. Her brother, Kiarash, intervened however the police told him that they are taking his sister to the police station for one hour of “re-education.”
Her brother waited outside the police station for her to be released however an ambulance pulled up and took his sister to the hospital. “The woman was sent to a Greater Tehran police precinct for guidance and education when suddenly, in the presence of other people, she had a heart attack,” the police said, reported CNN quoting state media.
Questioning the version of events given by police, the Mahsa’s family said that she was normal with no pre-existing heart conditions.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International said, “The circumstances leading to the suspicious death in custody of 22-year-old young woman Mahsa Amini, which include allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody, must be criminally investigated.”
“The so-called ‘morality police’ in Tehran arbitrarily arrested her three days before her death while enforcing the country’s abusive, degrading and discriminatory forced veiling laws. All agents and officials responsible must face justice,” it added.
Following the incident that sparked a fury on social media, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi ordered the interior minister to open an inquiry into the case. Several lawmakers said they would raise the case in parliament, while the judiciary said it would form a special task force to investigate, reported Al Jazeera.
Amini’s death comes amid growing controversy both inside and outside Iran over the conduct of the morality police, known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad (Guidance Patrol). The mandatory dress code, which applies to all nationalities and religions, not just Iranian Muslims, requires women to conceal their hair and neck with a headscarf, reported Al Jazeera.
Over the decades, women have increasingly pushed back, particularly in the big cities, wearing their headscarves far back on their heads to reveal their hair.