The UN Human Rights Office on Tuesday expressed “alarm” at the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by Iran’s so-called “morality police” enforcing strict hijab rules.
UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani quoted at a press conference Nada Al-Nashif, acting UN high commissioner for human rights, on Amini’s death and “the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests.”
“She (Amini) fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at Vozara Detention Centre. Amini, who also goes by the Kurdish name Jhina, died three days later,” said Shamdasani.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman from the Kurdish minority, was with her brother in Tehran when she was arrested on Sept. 13 for what was perceived to be “improper” wearing of her hijab.
Reports of beating with baton
“There are reports Amini was beaten on the head with a baton, and her head was banged against the vehicle by the so-called morality police. Authorities have stated she died of natural causes,” the UN official said.
Al-Nashif said that Amini’s death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially, and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority.
Iranian authorities must ensure, in particular, that Amini’s family has access to “justice and truth,” she urged.
Al-Nashif said the compulsory veiling laws remain of concern in Iran, where appearing in public without a hijab is punishable by imprisonment.
Shamdasani said that in recent months, the morality police have expanded street patrols, subjecting women perceived to be wearing “loose hijab” to verbal and physical harassment and arrest.
The UN Human Rights Office has received “numerous, and verified, videos of violent treatment of women, including slapping women across the face, beating them with batons and throwing them into police vans,” she added.
“The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules.”
The UN rights office called for the repeal of all discriminatory laws and regulations that impose mandatory hijab regulations.
“Thousands have taken to the streets in a number of cities across the country, including in Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Rasht, Saqqes, and Sanandaj, in protests against Amini’s death,” said Shamdasani.
“Security forces have reportedly responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and teargas. At least two people have reportedly been killed and several injured, and a number have been arrested,” she added.
The UN rights office condemned the reported unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against protesters, and called on Iran – as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to respect the right to peacefully exercise freedom of expression, assembly, and association.