Iran is experiencing some of its worst unrest in recent years with protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman in the custody of the state’s morality police.
Mahsa Amini was arrested for improperly wearing a hijab, in violation of Iran’s strict dress code.
Amini died three days after collapsing at a detention center in Tehran, with reports suggesting she was “severely bruised” while in detention, 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 swept the country in the week since Amini’s death, with the capital Tehran engulfed in riots as Iranian police and the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard try to control the demonstrations “with live ammunition, pellet guns 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 were killed in the fighting, although an account on Iranian state television put the count at 17, according to CBS. Other estimates suggest the number could be even higher.
The protests have attracted international attention, and international leaders – including some in the United States – have moved to criticize Iran for its treatment of women and its response to the protesters.
“The Iranian government must end its systematic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest. The United States will continue to express our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them accountable,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned the morality police “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters,” asserting in a release that the police were responsible for Amini’s death.
“We condemn this unconscionable act in the strongest terms and call on the Iranian government to end its violence against women and its continued violent crackdown on free expression and assembly,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement .
The department also sanctioned seven Iranian security chiefs for overseeing the violence.
President Biden mentioned the ongoing protests in remarks before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
“Today, we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are currently demonstrating to achieve their basic rights.”
Biden also emphasized the long-standing effort by the US to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.
“We will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon… We cannot allow the world to slide backwards now, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the erosion of human rights,” Biden said.
The administration is working to revive the nuclear deal that former President Trump withdrew from in 2015.
A group of UN experts said Amini was another victim of Iran’s ongoing repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that would deprive women of their bodily autonomy and freedoms of opinion, views and opinions.
Women in Iran are burning hijabs and cutting their hair in protest against restrictive modesty requirements.
In 2017, the head of the morality police announced that arrests under the dress code would end, but the practice appears to have resumed under current Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, according to The Associated Press.
CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour was scheduled Thursday to conduct the first US-soil interview with Raisi during the United Nations General Assembly session.
The plan backfired when Amanpour refused Raisi’s insistence that she wear a scarf during the on-camera interview.
“As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it was a great time to speak with President Raisi,” Amanpour said on Twitter.
Iran is no stranger to protest within its borders. Unrest erupted in 2019 over high fuel prices in the country, and protests erupted in 2021 over water and electricity shortages.
As Iran tries to control the protests, the internet has been shut down in some places and access to platforms like WhatsApp has been blocked, ending protesters’ ability to communicate and share information on social media.
Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, saying Iran rejects “some of the double standards of some governments regarding human rights,” but did not directly mention the ongoing protests on its home turf.
For the latest news, weather, sports, and video streaming, go to The Hill.