TEHRAN (AFP): An Iranian lawmaker made a rare stand Tuesday to criticize the controversial “morality police,” following protests over the death of a young woman they had arrested, local media reported.
Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the police unit responsible for enforcing Iran’s strict dress code for women, including the wearing of the headscarf in public.
The 22-year-old died in hospital after three days in a coma.
Her death comes amid growing controversy both inside and outside Iran over the conduct of the morality police, known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad, or “Guidance Patrol.”
Jalal Rashidi Koochi, a member of parliament, told the ISNA news agency that “Gasht-e Ershad is wrong because it has had no result except loss and damage for the country,” adding that “the main problem is that some people resist accepting the truth.”
Koochi questioned if the current policy of enforcing those breaking dress regulations was effective.
“Do the people who are taken to these explanatory classes by the Guidance Patrol become conscious and repent when they come out?” Koochi said, ISNA reported.
The UN decried Mahsa Amini’s death in custody after she was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” and the violent crackdown on protests over her death, demanding an independent investigation.
“Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif today expressed alarm at the death in custody of Mahsa Amini… and the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests,” the rights office said in a statement.
“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,” Al-Nashif said in the statement.
There are reports that the 22-year-old was “beaten on the head with a baton, and her head was banged against the vehicle by the so-called morality police,” the UN statement said.
On Sunday, police made arrests and fired tear gas in the dead woman’s home province of Kurdistan, where some 500 people had protested, some smashing car windows and torching rubbish bins, reports said.
On Monday, demonstrations were held in Tehran, including in several universities, and the second city Mashhad, according to the Fars and Tasnim news agencies.
Protesters in Tehran were dispersed by “police using batons and tear gas,” according to Fars news agency.
“Several hundred people chanted slogans against the authorities, some of them took off their hijab (headscarves),” Fars added.
Tehran Governor Mohsen Mansouri on Tuesday said the protests in the capital were “fully organized with the agenda to create unrest,” in a post on Twitter.
“Burning the flag, pouring fuel on the roads, throwing stones, attacking the police, setting fire to motorcycles and garbage cans, destroying public property… is not the work of ordinary people,” he said.
State news agency IRNA reported protests on Monday in other provinces of the country including Kermanshah in the west, Gilan in the north, Razavi Khorasan in northeast and Yazd in the center.