Investigation launched after woman dies while in custody of Iran's 'morality police'
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Featured Image Credit: Center for Human Rights in Iran
An investigation has been launched after a woman in Iran died in the custody of the country's so-called 'morality police'.
Mahsa Amini was detained on Tuesday (13 September) after officers apparently found fault with her headscarf, or hijab.
The headscarf has been compulsory for women in Iran since after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and members of the morality police enforce the strict dress code.
Police said on Thursday (15 September) that the 22-year-old Amini was taken to hospital after she allegedly had a heart attack while in custody.
Pro-reform news websites quoted an uncle of Amini as saying she had no history of heart disease, while Radio Free Europe reported that eyewitnesses said she was beaten inside the police van.
According to the state-run IRNA news agency, President Ebrahim Raisi asked interior minister Ahmad Vahidi to 'investigate the cause of the incident with urgency and special attention'.
On Friday (16 September), police said there was no violence towards or physical contact between officers and Amini while she was in custody. Police also showed closed-circuit footage appearing to show Amini inside a police station, with other detainees.
At one point she stands up from a chair, goes to speak to another woman, then holds her head with both hands, stumbles against a chair and collapses. In the next segment she is being carried away on a stretcher.
The official website of Iran's judiciary, Mizan.news, said that Tehran's chief prosecutor, Ali Salehi, ordered a police team of forensic pathologists to examine the medical aspects of the case.
Iran's morality police have been criticised in recent years over its treatment of people, especially young women, and videos uploaded on social media have shown officers forcing women into police vehicles.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has supported a softer attitude towards women who do not comply with the official dress code.
But hard-liners have called for harsh punishment and even lashes, arguing that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral decay and the disintegration of families. The judiciary has in recent years urged people to inform on women who do not wear the hijab.
Since 2017, after dozens of women publicly took off their headscarves in a wave of protests, the authorities adopted tougher measures.
Amini's case has drawn condemnation from Iranian celebrities, athletes and other public figures.
Former pro-reform president Mohammad Khatami said the behaviour of the morality police was a 'disaster', while outspoken politician and former politician Mahmoud Sadeghi called on Khamenei to speak publicly about Amini's case.
Popular former football player, Ali Karimi, tweeted that while children of high-ranking officials are leaving the country, 'our children are dying'.
While fellow former footballer, Hossein Mahini, said in a tweet addressing the morality police: "We hate you."
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