A ten-year-old girl was reportedly shot in the head at a protest in Iran sparked by the killing of a 22-year-old who was beaten by police after she was accused of not wearing the religious garb correctly. Kurdish rights group Hengaw said on Monday that the young girl was shot by security forces during anti-government protests that have included tearing down monuments and burning hijabs. The shocking incident is the latest in a series of escalating demonstrations after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police, a section of Iran’s police force which serves to enforce dress code laws which include women covering their hair with a hijab, or headscarf.
The group reports that she is in critical condition after the incident, which took place in Bukan, a city in the West Azerbaijan province. The morality police had accused Ms Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from the north-western city of Saqez, of wearing her clothing incorrectly.
According to the Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif, they beat her head with a baton and banged it against one of their vehicles. The 22-year-old fell into a coma after collapsing at a detention centre, and died in hospital three days later.
While police denied the mistreatment and claimed she suffered “sudden heart failure”, Ms Amini’s family have insisted she was fit and healthy. A CT scan of Amini’s head showed a bone fracture, haemorrhage, and brain edema, seemingly confirming that she died due to being struck on the head.
Her death has sparked passionate protests across the country.
In the latest of a series of demonstrations against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s regime, a video shared by the BBC’s Iran specialist Rana Rahimpour yesterday shows women burning their hijabs as a crowd gathers. Crowds cheered as the women set their hijabs alight in Sari, a city near the northern coast of Iran.
A total of at least six people are believed to have been killed since the death of Ms Amini. This included two who were reportedly killed when security forces opened fire on protestors in the city of Saqqez in the Kurdistan province – Ms Amini’s hometown.
Meanwhile Hengaw reported that in Divandarreh, also in the Kurdistan province, heavy clashes erupted between protesters and security forces earlier on Monday. As a result, “at least two citizens – Fouad Qadimi and Mohsen Mohammadi – died after being taken to Kosar Hospital in Sanandaj and 15 others were injured.”
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A video shared by @1500tasvir, an Iranian Twitter account that reports on protests in Iran, showed demonstrators in Tehran attempting to flip over a police vehicle with smashed windows. Meanwhile in a video shared by news editor of Free Iran, Mohammad Hanif Jazayeri, protestors in Sari chant “death to the dictator” as they tear down portraits on the city hall of Khamenei and his predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini.
In another tweet yesterday, Mr Jazayeri said the protestors also chanted: “This is the year Seyyed Ali [Khamenei] will be overthrown”
Human rights boss Ms Nashif said: “Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated by an independent competent authority, that ensures, in particular, that her family has access to justice and truth.”
She added that the UN had received “numerous, and verified, videos of violent treatment of women” as morality police expanded their street patrols in recent months to crack down on those perceived to be wearing “loose hijab”.
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She added: “The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules.”
The head of Iran’s morality police, Col Ahmed Mirzaei, has reportedly been suspended following the outrage.
According to state-run media, President Ebrahim Raisi, who since his election last year has tightened enforcement of the headscarf law, said over the phone to Amini’s family on Sunday: “Your daughter is like my own daughter, and I feel that this incident happened to one of my loved ones. Please accept my condolences.”
State media also reported that an aide to Supreme Leader Khamenei paid a visit to Ms Amini’s family on Monday and told them that “all institutions will take action to defend the rights that were violated”. Meanwhile, senior MP Jalal Rashidi Koochi publicly criticised the morality police, saying the force was a “mistake” as it had only produced “loss and damage” for Iran.