Iran faces some of its worst unrest in years as protests erupt over the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the state’s vice squad.
Mahsa Amini was arrested for allegedly wearing a hijab in an improper manner, in violation of Iran’s strict dress code.
Amini died three days after collapsing in a detention center in Tehran, and reports suggest she was “severely beaten” while incarcerated, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office. Iranian authorities claimed Amini died of a heart attack and the UN office called for an investigation.
Outrage has overtaken the country in the week since Amini’s death, and the capital Tehran is engulfed in unrest as Iranian police and paramilitary Revolutionary Guards are reportedly trying to control the demonstrations “with live ammunition, shotguns and tear gas,” according to the UN. . .
Thousands of protesters in cities across Iran are said to have taken part in the protests so far.
At least nine people have been killed in the fighting, although a count on Iranian state television would put the number at 17, according to TAUT. Other estimates suggest the number may be even higher.
The protests have attracted international attention, and international leaders — including some in the United States — have gone on to condemn Iran for both its treatment of women and its response to the protesters.
“The Iranian government must end the systematic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest. The United States will continue to show our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them to account,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned the vice squad “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters,” claiming in a release that police were responsible for Amini’s death.
“We condemn this unscrupulous act in the strongest possible terms and call on the Iranian government to end violence against women and the continued violent crackdown on free speech and assembly,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. .
The ministry has also sanctioned seven Iranian security leaders for overseeing the violence.
President Biden mentioned the ongoing protests in remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
“Today we stand alongside the brave civilians and the brave women of Iran who are now demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”
Biden also underlined the US’s long-standing efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
“We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon… We cannot let the world slide backwards now, nor can we turn a blind eye to the erosion of human rights,” Biden said.
The administration has been working to revive the nuclear deal from which former President Trump withdrew in 2015.
A group of UN experts said Amini is “another victim of Iran’s continued repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of their physical autonomy and freedom of opinion, expression and belief.”
Women in Iran have burned their hijabs and cut their hair in protest of restrictive modesty requirements.
In 2017, the vice squad chief announced that arrests would be halted under the dress code, but the practice appears to have resumed under current Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, according to The The AU Times.
TAUT presenter Christiane Amanpour was due to hold Raisi’s first US soil interview on Thursday during the United Nations General Assembly session.
The plan fell through when Amanpour turned down Raisi’s demand to wear a headscarf in front of the camera during the interview.
“As the protests in Iran continue and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to talk to President Raisi,” Amanpour said. said on Twitter.
Iran is no stranger to protesting within its borders. In 2019, unrest erupted over high fuel prices in the country and in 2021 protests escalated against water and electricity shortages.
As Iran tries to contain the protests, the internet has been shut down in places and access to platforms such as WhatsApp has been blocked, leaving protesters unable to communicate and share information on social media.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Raisi said Iran “rejects some of the double standards of some governments regarding human rights”, but did not directly mention the ongoing protests on its own grounds.