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Violence erupts in Iran after woman dies in ‘morality police’ custody

Security forces cracked down on protesters demonstrating across Iran over the death of a young woman in the custody of its so-called morality police, allegedly killing five.

The death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from western Iran, during a visit to the capital this month has stirred outrage over the government’s increasingly strict enforcement of ultraconservative dress codes for women. Amini was detained as she exited a metro station, and she suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma while in custody, state-affiliated media said. Her family insisted that she had no previous health problems, and activists asserted that she may have been beaten by police.

Monday marked the third day of unrest across Iran, with protests in numerous places, including Tehran, the capital. Two people were killed as security forces fired on protesters in the Kurdish city of Saqez — Amini’s hometown — while two more died in the town of Divandarreh, and a fifth was killed in Dehgolan, according to Hengaw, a rights watchdog. The claims could not immediately be independently verified by The Washington Post.

In Tehran, photos from the scene of one protest showed demonstrators crowded around a burning motorcycle. Videos posted on social media appeared to show protesters injured after clashing with authorities. Internet access was restricted in parts of the country.

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Iran hasn’t confirmed any deaths during the protests. The semiofficial Fars News Agency reported that demonstrators were dispersed by security forces in a number of cities, and that the leaders of some of the protests were arrested by police.

A senior morality police official, Col. Ahmed Mirzaei, was suspended after Amini’s death, according to Iran International, a London-based news channel. Officials denied those claims, the Guardian reported. The Interior Ministry previously ordered an investigation into Amini’s death at the behest of archconservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The police commander of the greater Tehran area told reporters that Amini was walking in a park and wearing a hijab that was not suitable. He said she didn’t resist detention and even made jokes in the police van. The headscarf and other conservative dress have been compulsory for women since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

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Raisi is in New York this week, where he will address the U.N. General Assembly about the country’s relations with the West. He told reporters at the Tehran airport that he has no plans to meet with President Biden on the sidelines of the event, the Associated Press reported. Indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran to revive a 2015 nuclear deal appear to be close to stalling.

Raisi, a hard line cleric who assumed office last year, has called for strict enforcement of the dress codes. Last month, a video appeared to show a woman detained by Iran’s increasingly assertive guidance patrols being thrown from a speeding van.

The government crackdown sparked a protest movement over the summer by Iranian women, who photographed themselves without headscarves and posted the pictures on social media.

Kareem Fahim contributed to this report.

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