Cops: She Was Detained for Hijab 'Education.' Now She's Dead

Outrage in Iran after witnesses say Mahsa Amini died after being beaten by 'morality police'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2022 10:15 AM CDT
22-Year-Old Woman Dies in Custody of 'Morality Police'
Head-to-toe veiled Iranian women are seen in Tehran, Iran, on April 6, 2021.   (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The existence of Iran's "morality police"—authorities who patrol the streets to ensure Islamic code on how women dress is being followed—has been increasingly under fire there, and a young woman's death this week has just exacerbated the backlash. Witnesses say 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died during a visit to family in Tehran after being detained by members of this law enforcement arm, also known as Gasht-e Ershad, or "guidance patrols," per Al Jazeera. Tehran police confirmed Amini had been pulled aside with other women for "justification and education" on dress guidelines, as she reportedly hadn't been complying with the head covering rules, reports the BBC.

Those rules mandate that all women in Iran, regardless of religion and nationality, cover their hair and neck with a hijab, a form of headscarf. Amini "suddenly suffered a heart problem while in the company of others receiving guidance [and] was immediately taken to hospital," state TV reported on Friday, noting she died soon after. But witnesses say after Amini was taken into custody on Tuesday, she was beaten in a police van. Her family says she was in a coma before she passed away. As word of her death circulated, outrage ensued, and protesters showed up at her funeral Saturday in her hometown of Saqqez, in the province of Kurdistan, reports Reuters.

"Death to the dictator!" demonstrators yelled as police tried to break up the crowd with tear gas, an apparent reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whom many blame for what seems to be an uptick in reports of repressive acts against women in Iran, including keeping them out of banks and government buildings if they're not dressed according to code. And indeed, activists have been urging women lately to drop their hijabs, even though a breach of the law, instituted after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, could lead to public rebuke, fines, or arrest. President Ebrahim Raisi has said he'll open an inquiry into Amini's death. A medical examiner said Saturday that forensics tests could take up to three weeks, per state media. (Read more Iran stories.)

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