ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The United States on Tuesday urged Iran to allow peaceful protests after a few died and dozens were reportedly injured in demonstrations that swept the Kurdish region of western Iran (Rojhelat) following the death of a young woman in police custody.
Mahsa (Zhina) Amini was reportedly on a family visit to Tehran where she was detained by the so-called morality police last week over lax hijab. She later fell into a coma and died as rights activists and witnesses say she was beaten in the police van.
Her death ignited local and nationwide anger.
“Mahsa Amini should be alive today. Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter as he called on Iran to end its “systemic prosecution of women.”
Protests over Amini's death erupted and swept across the Kurdish cities of Iran as anger and grief were thick in the air.
At least five people were killed when security forces opened fire during Monday protests and over 70 other people were wounded, according to Hengaw Organization for Human Rights.
A 10-year-old girl was reportedly shot as the protests took a violent turn in the Kurdish city of Bukan, the local watchdog said. She was in critical condition.
A few dozen protestors marched the streets while chanting the famous Kurdish slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” in Persian, social media videos showed, indicating that one can only live freely in a society whose women are free.
Iranian state media said there were “limited protests” that were dispersed by the police.
Iranian security forces have said that Amini fell ill as she waited with other women held by the police, but her father has repeatedly denied that his daughter had health problems.
“It is not clear how she was beaten. The women who were in the ambulance said that she was hit on the head,” her father said.
The forces also released CCTV footage supporting their version of the events, which the father described as “lies” and “censored.”
Shortly after Iran’s 1979 revolution, the hijab was declared compulsory and women who defied the Islamic dress code or refused to strictly follow it were denied their rights. Offenders against Iran’s sharia law and hijab rules often face fines or arrest.
However, women challenged the Islamic Republic where they were seen in social media videos taking off their hijab, burning veils, and cutting their hair in solidarity with Amini’s brutal death.
“Girls spark a revolution against oppression,” one Twitter user wrote on a video of a young woman setting her hijab ablaze amid street chaos.
Amini “could have been any of us,” wrote another user.
The European Union’s diplomatic service said the perpetrator of Amini’s “killing must be held accountable.”
France has called for a transparent investigation into her death.