Iranian woman’s death excites critics of ‘morality police’


As Iran recovers from the death of a woman after her arrest by its “morality police,” the Sunday front page of the financial newspaper Asia declared: “Dear Mahsa, your name will become a symbol.”

The police unit, which is responsible for enforcing Iran’s strict dress code for women, especially the wearing of headscarves in public, has come under increasing criticism in recent months for its excessive use of force.

The death of Mahsa Amini, 22, has renewed calls to curb her actions against women suspected of violating the dress code since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The day after her funeral, almost all the Iranian press devoted their front pages to her story on Sunday.

“The nation has expressed its grief over the sad death of Mahsa,” said the front page of the ultra-conservative Javan newspaper.

Amini, originally from the northwestern province of Kurdistan, was visiting the capital Tehran with her family when she was detained on Tuesday.

She was pronounced dead by state television on Friday after being in a coma for three days. Shortly afterwards, a crowd gathered outside the Kasra Hospital in central Tehran.

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In her hometown of Saghez, where her body was buried on Saturday, some residents threw rocks at the governor’s office and chanted slogans at authorities, according to Fars news agency.

“People are shocked and outraged by what happened to Mahsa Amini,” noted reformist publication Etemad, stating that the country has suffered “several cases of violence by the morality police.”

The moderate Jomhouri-e Eslami daily warned of “social fragmentation” caused by the “violent behavior” of the unit’s officers.

– Conservatives push back –

President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultra-conservative former judiciary who came to power last year, has ordered an investigation into Amini’s death.

The official state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday that Raisi promised the family in a phone call that he would follow up on the case, saying: “Your daughter is like my own daughter and I feel that this incident happened to one of my own relatives.”

However, some of the more conservative media tried to resist the barrage of criticism.

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The government daily Iran accused reformists of “exploiting public sentiment by using an unfortunate incident to turn the nation against the government and the president”.

An ultra-conservative newspaper, Kayhan, claimed that “the amount of rumors and lies spread in the wake of Mahsa’s death, increased considerably.”

“Nevertheless, the publication of images of this incident by the police has deterred opportunists from taking advantage of it,” the publication argued.

It referred to a short video from a security camera broadcast by state television on Friday, in which she reportedly fell to the floor in a large hall full of women while arguing with one of the female instructors over clothing.

In a statement on Friday, Tehran police insisted that “there was no physical meeting” between officers and Amini.

The chief of Tehran’s medical examiner told state television on Saturday that the investigation into the cause of death would take up to three weeks.

– 1.5 million tweets –

Filmmakers, artists, athletes and political and religious figures have expressed their anger at the vice squad both inside and outside the country via social media.

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Former president and reformist Mohammad Khatami called on authorities to “end actions against law, logic and Sharia”, or Islamic law, and “bring the perpetrators to justice”.

Grand Ayatollah Assadollah Bayat Zanjani, a cleric seen as close to the reformists, denounced what he said as “unlawful” and “illegal” actions behind “this regrettable incident”.

“The Quran clearly forbids the use of force” to enforce religious and moral values, he said.

Two-time Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi said that “Mahsa is now alive more than we are” because “we are silent in the face of such boundless cruelty. We are complicit in this crime.”

“Our girls’ hair is covered with a shroud,” several football players of Iran’s national team wrote in a joint story they shared on Instagram.

“If these are Muslims, may God make me an infidel,” lamented Sardar Azmoun, who plays for German club Bayer Leverkusen.

On Twitter, the hashtag #Masha_Amini had collected nearly 1.5 million tweets at noon on Sunday.


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