World reacts to death of Mahsa Amini as anti-hijab law protests continue in Iran

Exile Iranians of the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather in front of the embassy of Iran in Berlin Credit: AP

Protests have erupted for a fourth consecutive day across Iran after a 22-year-old woman died while being held by authorities for violating the country's strictly enforced Islamic dress code.

The death of Mahsa Amini on Friday, who had been picked up by Iran's morality police for her allegedly loose headscarf, or hijab, has triggered daring displays of defiance, in the face of beatings and possible arrest.

In street protests, some women tore off their mandatory headscarves, demonstratively twirling them in the air. Videos online showed two women throwing their hijabs into a bonfire. Another woman is seen cutting off her hair in a show of protest.

Exile Iranians of the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather in front of the embassy of Iran in Berlin to demonstrate solidarity with the protests in Iran while a person was seen placing a flower in front of a portrait of Masha Amini during a protest rally in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday.

Iran's morality police arrested Amini on September 13 in Tehran, where she was visiting from her hometown in the country's western Kurdish region. She collapsed at a police station and died three days later.

Police detained her over wearing her hijab too loosely. Iran requires women to wear the headscarf in a way that completely covers their hair when in public. Only Afghanistan under Taliban rule now actively enforces a similar law. Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia dialled back its enforcement over recent years.

a trash bin is burning as anti-riot police arrive during a protest over the death of a young woman Credit: AP Photo

Iranian women have full access to education, work outside the home and hold public office. But they are required to dress modestly in public, which includes wearing the hijab as well as long, loose-fitting robes. Unmarried men and women are barred from mingling.

Many Iranians, particularly the young, have come to see Amini's death as part of the Islamic Republic's heavy-handed policing of dissent and the morality police's increasingly violent treatment of young women.

At some of the demonstrations, protesters clashed with police and thick clouds of tear gas were seen rising in the capital, Tehran. Protesters were also chased and beaten with clubs by the motorcycle-riding Basij, or volunteers in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The Basij have violently suppressed protests in the past, including over water rights and the country's cratering economy.

Yet some demonstrators still chant “death to the dictator,” targeting both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's rule and Iran's theocracy, despite the threat of arrest, imprisonment and even the possibility of a death sentence.

The police deny Amini was mistreated and say she died of a heart attack but Amini's family says she had no history of heart trouble and that they were prevented from seeing her body before she was buried.

The United Nations condemned the violent response of the Iranian police forces and have called for an investigation into the death in custody.

“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,” said Acting UN Human Rights Chief Nada Al-Nashif.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, who will speak at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, has promised an investigation.

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