DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A top United Nations official on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the death of an Iranian woman held by the country’s morality police after authorities admitted making arrests at protests. about the incident.
The woman’s death sparked demonstrations across the country, including in the capital, Tehran, where demonstrators chanted against the government and clashed with police.
The United Nations Human Rights Office said Iranian police patrols have increased in recent months, targeting women for not wearing the Islamic headscarf, known as hijab, properly. He said verified videos show women being slapped in the face, beaten with batons and thrown into police vans for wearing the hijab too loosely.
A similar patrol detained Mahsa Amini, 22 years old last Tuesday, taking her to a police station where she collapsed. She died three days later. Iranian police deny ill-treatment of Amini and say she died of a heart attack. Authorities say they are investigating the incident.
“The tragic death of Mahsa Amini and the allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by a competent and independent authority,” said Nada Al-Nashif, acting UN high commissioner for human rights.
The Iranian government did not immediately comment on the statement but has previously criticized the work of UN investigators examining rights issues in the country.
Police released closed circuit video footage last week showing the moment Amini fell. But her family says she had no history of heart trouble.
Amjad Amini, her father, told an Iranian news website that witnesses saw her being pushed into a police car.
“I asked for access to (videos) from cameras inside the car as well as the yard of the police station, but they didn’t give any answer,” he said. He also accused the police of not taking her to hospital quickly enough, saying she could have been revived.
He said that when he arrived at the hospital he was not allowed to see the body, but he managed to see the bruise on his leg.
The authorities then pressured him to bury her at night, to reduce the likelihood of protests, but Amini said the family convinced them to let them bury her at 8am instead.
Amini, who was Kurdish, was buried on Saturday in her hometown, Saqez in western Iran. Protests broke out there after her funeral and police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators on Saturday and Sunday. Several protestors were arrested.
The protests spread to Tehran and other cities on Monday. A news website affiliated with state television said 22 people were arrested at a protest in the northern city of Rasht, the first official confirmation of arrests related to the protests.
State TV showed footage of Monday’s protests, including images of two police cars with their windows broken. He said the protesters torched two motorcycles as well, and that they burned the Iranian flags in Kurdish areas and Tehran.
The state-run broadcaster blamed the unrest on foreign countries and exiled opposition groups, accusing them of using Amini’s death as a pretext for more economic sanctions.
Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, largely due to a long-standing economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions related to the country’s nuclear program. The authorities managed to quash the protests by force.