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Protests erupt at the funeral of an Iranian who died after being morally arrested

Protests erupt at the funeral of an Iranian who died after being morally arrested

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Protests erupted in western Iran on Saturday at the funeral of a young woman who died after being detained by morality police enforcing strict hijab rules, and security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters.

Videos circulating on social media showed protesters chanting anti-government slogans after a rally in Saqqaz, Mohasa Amini’s hometown. They came from nearby cities in Iran’s Kurdistan region to mourn the 22-year-old who died in a hospital in the capital, Tehran, on Friday.

“Death to the dictator,” the crowd chanted, a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while some women took off their headscarves. Police were seen firing tear gas and in the video a man appeared with a head injury, one of whom could be heard saying it was caused by a birdshot. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.

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The protests spread to the provincial capital Sanandaj and continued until late at night. Videos on social media showed crowds chanting, “Saqez is not alone, he is supported by Sanandaj.” Demonstrators were seen confronting riot police amid intermittent sounds of gunfire. Other videos posted showed youths burning tires and throwing stones at riot police with clouds of tear gas.

In recent months, rights activists have urged women to publicly remove the niqab, a gesture that would risk arrest for defying the Islamic dress code as the country’s hard-line rulers crack down on “immoral behaviour”. Read more

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Videos posted on social media showed cases of what appeared to be violent action by morality police units against women who removed their headscarves.

Investigation of death

Authorities have opened investigations into Amini’s death, but a doctor said on Saturday that the results of forensic tests could take up to three weeks. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told state television that there were no reports of her being beaten.

Police said Amini fell ill while waiting with other women held at the Morality Police Station, rejecting claims on social media that she was likely beaten.

Police released closed-circuit television footage apparently supporting their version of events. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the video, which appeared to have been edited.

Police earlier said Amini had suffered a heart attack after being taken to the center “to receive his education”. Her relatives denied that she suffers from any heart disease.

Prominent sports and artistic figures posted critical comments on social media about Amini’s death and staged protests in Tehran on Friday amid a heavy presence of riot police.

Social media posts said, as during previous protests, authorities appear to have restricted mobile internet access in Saqqaz and nearby areas.

Internet blocking observatory NetBlocks reported a “major internet outage” in Tehran on Friday, linking it to the protests. Read more

Under Iranian Islamic law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obligated to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to conceal their personalities. Violators face public reprimand, fines, and arrest.

Decades after the revolution, clerical rulers still struggle to enforce the law, with many women of all ages and backgrounds wearing tight thigh-length coats and brightly colored scarves pushed back to reveal plenty of hair.

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Reporting from the Dubai Newsroom. Editing by Alex Richardson and David Gregorio

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.