BIranian President Ebrahim Raisi left a country in turmoil as he departed Monday for New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly. The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died three days after being arrested by vice squads last Friday, has sparked angry but non-violent protests that have spread rapidly across the country.
Earlier waves of protests were violently put down by the Iranian leadership. She reacts differently to these protests. Before he left, Raisi called the family of the young woman who was killed and said, “Your daughter is my daughter too.” On Saturday, Mahsa Amini was buried in her hometown of Saqqez in Kordestan province with great sympathy.
On Tuesday last week, during a visit to Tehran, she was arrested by the vice squad and taken to a police station for allegedly not wearing her headscarf, the hejab, properly. Two hours later, the police took her to a hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries in intensive care.
That was the spark that spread into a nationwide conflagration. In large cities such as Tehran, Mashhad and Isfahan, but also in smaller ones, women and men are not only protesting against compulsory headscarves. Slogans like “Woman, life, freedom” are generally directed against the Islamic Republic, others like “Death to the dictator” against the revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei, others again against his son Modschtaba, who is considered a possible successor to his father.
At the rallies, men and women who have removed their headscarves face armed security forces. On the campus of Tehran University they even managed to push them back on Monday evening. Elsewhere, however, riot police used tear gas and shotguns, apparently killing several people. The protests lasted until the morning hours on Tuesday, and clashes broke out on the campus of the Technical University in eastern Tehran during the course of Tuesday.
The protesters’ anger also fueled the authorities’ initial attempt to cover up the cause of death. The original version was that Mahsa Amini died of heart failure without any outside influence. That all changed when the London-based Persian-language satellite broadcaster Iran International broadcast video footage from the Tehran hospital showing the young woman in intensive care, as well as X-rays of her skull injuries.
What was the cause of death?
At first it was said that the material had been sent to them by hackers. However, the version is also circulating that the doctors at the hospital leaked them to the TV station, which is popular in Iran. An unnamed doctor is also quoted as saying that he heard a police officer say when the woman was admitted that her head had been banged against a wall more than 10 times. Amjad Amini, the young woman’s father, said she was perfectly healthy.