Protests broke out in western Iran on Saturday at the funeral of a young woman who died after being detained by morality police enforcing strict hijab rules, and security forces used tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
Videos posted on social media showed protesters shouting anti-government slogans after gathering in Saqez, hometown of Mahsa Amini. They came from nearby cities in Iran’s Kurdistan province to mourn the 22-year-old who died in a hospital in the capital Tehran on Friday.
“Death to the dictator” – a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chanted the crowd, while some women took off their headscarves. Police were seen firing tear gas and one man can be seen on a video with an injury to the head that someone could be heard saying was caused by birdshot. The authenticity of the videos could not be verified.
Protests also spread to the provincial capital, Sanandaj where they continued late into the night. Social media videos showed crowds chanting “Saqez is not alone, it’s supported by Sanandaj”. Marchers were also seen confronting riot police amid the sound of sporadic gunfire. Other posted videos showed youths setting fire to tyres and throwing rocks at riot police across clouds of tear gas.
In recent months, rights activists have urged women to publicly remove their veils, a gesture that would risk their arrest for defying the Islamic dress code as the country’s hardline rulers crack down on “immoral behaviour”.
Videos posted on social media have shown cases of what appeared to be heavy-handed action by morality police units against women who had removed their hijab.
Authorities have launched probes into the death of Amini, but a medical examiner said on Saturday results of forensic tests may take up to three weeks. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told state TV there was no report she was beaten.
Police said Amini became ill as she waited with other detained women at a morality police station, rejecting allegations on social media that she was likely beaten.