Four dead in Iran during protests over death in custody – rights group

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  • A Kurdish woman was detained by Iran’s morality police last week
  • The police deny any wrongdoing, Mahsa Amini said
  • The United States demands accountability for Amini’s death
  • Iraqi Kurdish leader sends condolences to his family

DUBAI (Reuters) – Four people were killed in Iran’s Kurdish region on Monday when security forces opened fire during protests over the killing of a woman in police custody, a Kurdish rights group said, in a third day of unrest over an event. Which sparked outrage nationwide.

Mehsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdistan region, fell into a coma and died after being arrested in Tehran last week by the morality police, sparking demonstrations in several areas including the capital. Read more

The Hengau Human Rights Organization said on Twitter that two people were killed when security forces opened fire on protesters in Amini’s hometown of Saqqaz, Kurdish.

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It said two others were killed in the town of Devandareh “by direct fire” from the security forces.

There was no official confirmation of deaths.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

State television said a number of protesters had been arrested, but rejected “some allegations of deaths on social media” by showing two injured young men who denied reports of their deaths. Their names were different from those given in Hengaw’s report.

In national condemnations of Amini’s death, the Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini reached nearly two million mentions on Twitter.

Police said Amini fell ill while waiting with other women being held by the Morality Police, which enforces strict rules in the Islamic Republic requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes in public.

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But her father has repeatedly said that his daughter has no health problems, adding that she suffered from bruises on her legs. He blamed the police for her death.

The protests were most intense in the Kurdish region, where the authorities had previously quelled unrest by the Kurdish minority.

Hengao said 15 people were injured in Devandarh.

A video posted by Hingao on Twitter earlier showed protesters throwing stones while a man could be heard saying “there is war in Devandarh” and accusing police of the attack.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

Internet blocking observatory NetBlocks reported a “near-total outage of internet connectivity in Sanandaj” – the capital of the Kurdish region – on Monday, linking it to the protests, according to its Twitter account.

In Washington, the White House demanded accountability for Amini’s death. Read more

A White House spokeswoman said: “The death of Mahsa Amini after being injured while in police custody for wearing an ‘improper’ headscarf is a shocking and outrageous affront to human rights.”

‘Unfortunate accident’

Tehran’s police chief, Hossein Rahimi, said “cowardly accusations” were leveled against the police, that Amini was not physically harmed, and that the police “did everything” to keep her alive.

“This incident was unfortunate for us and we hope that we will never witness such incidents,” Rahimi said.

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Police video showed a woman identified as Amini entering a room and sitting alongside others, before quickly moving up to show her on her feet talking to someone who was checking part of her clothing.

Then the woman raised her hands to her head and collapsed.

Perpetrators of Islamic law in Iran face public reprimand, fines, or arrest. But activists recently urged women to remove the veil despite the rulers’ hard-line crackdown on “immoral behaviour”. Read more

A statement said that Massoud Barzani, the former president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, sent his condolences to Amini’s family on Sunday.

In Tehran, a widely followed Iranian protest Twitter account posted footage showing what it said was a protest at a university against the paramilitary Basij militia.

Other videos showed police using water cannons to disperse protesters in Tehran, and demonstrations spread to cities such as Rasht, Mashhad and Isfahan.

Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.

Vali Nasr of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said the protests reflected pent-up frustrations over issues including “the ethnic issue, the headscarf issue, as well as … dissatisfaction with the way the authorities behave and brutalize the population.” .

An official organization that promotes Islamic morals has urged a reform of the way Iran applies rules for wearing headscarves, calling for less censorship and more encouragement for women to abide by the rules.

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Reporting from the Dubai Newsroom. Written by Tom Perry. Editing: Ed Osmond, Leslie Adler and Grant McCall

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Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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