NEW YORK (AP) – The death of an Iranian woman in the custody of the country’s morality police must be “firmly” investigated, Iran’s president said Thursday, even as he turned the tables on the country he visited for a General Assembly General of the United Nations and asked: What about all the people killed by the American police?
“Have all these deaths been investigated?” Ebrahim Raisi said at a news conference held in New York on the sidelines of the annual meeting of world leaders. He lamented what he described as “double standards” in the West regarding human rights.
Regarding the death of Mahsa Amini, which sparked a clash between protesters and security forces in Iran, he said the authorities were doing what they had to do.
“It definitely needs to be investigated,” he said. “I contacted her family at the first opportunity and assured them that we would continue to investigate the incident steadily. … Our greatest concern is to protect the rights of all citizens.”
At least nine people have been killed in clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angered by the death since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to tallies Thursday by The Associated Press. Iranian police say Amini, who was detained for violating the strict morality police dress code, died of a heart attack and was not amputated. Her family doubted that account.
The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in years, remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities – venting anger over social repression and the country’s mounting crises – clash with security forces and paramilitaries.
Raisi, who gave a formal address to the General Assembly on Wednesday, pointed out that bad things happen to people in the hands of authorities everywhere.
“What about the deaths of Americans at the hands of law enforcement in the United States?” he asked about his country’s rival nation, and also mentioned the deaths of women in Britain which he said had not been investigated. He called for the “same standard” around the world in dealing with such deaths at the hands of the authorities.
Raisi’s comparison reflects a common approach by Iran’s leaders, who often point to Western society and its “hegemony” when faced with allegations of rights violations and demand that those nations be held accountable for the same way. Neither the United States nor Britain, however, have moral police who have authority over citizens.
Raisi, who headed the country’s judiciary before becoming president, said the inquiry into Amini’s death is finally over. Although elections and open debates are held in Iran, the top levels of the government are closely aligned with the supreme leader, who has the final say on key issues of the state and appoints the head of the judiciary.
Over the past five days the protests have escalated into an open challenge to the government, with women removing and burning their state-mandated headscarves in the streets as Iranians demand the fall of the Islamic Republic itself. These are the most serious demonstrations since 2019, when protests erupted over a hike in the price of gasoline.
Although he was not condemning the protests outright, he appeared to be on the side of the deadly response that left some protesters dead.
“What is happening, having demonstrations… of course these are normal and completely accepted,” he said. “We must distinguish between demonstrators and vandalism. Demonstrations are good for communicating specific issues.”
He said: “There is a debate going on in Iran.”
The demonstrations in Iran began as an emotional outburst over the death of Amini, whose death has been condemned by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
The US government has imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and the heads of other security agencies, saying they routinely employ violence to suppress peaceful protesters.”
Iranian police say Amini died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family doubts that. Independent experts affiliated with the United Nations said Thursday that reports indicated she was severely beaten by the morality police, without offering evidence.
Aya Batrawy, an AP journalist based in Dubai, is on assignment covering the United Nations General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ayaelb and for more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly