Young Women burn headscarves (hijabs) in Iran
Tehran: Women have been at the forefront of escalating protests in Iran sparked by the death in custody of a woman detained for breaking hijab laws.
Crowds cheered when women burned their hijabs on a bonfire at Sari on Tuesday as the unrest continued for a fifth night and spread to more cities, BBC reported on Wednesday.
Activists said two male protesters were shot dead by security forces in Urmia and Piranshahr in the north-west.
A police assistant was also reportedly killed in Shiraz in the south.
At least six people are now believed to have been killed since protests against the hijab laws and the morality police erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini.
The 22-year-old Kurdish woman from the north-western city of Saqez died in hospital on Friday after spending three days in a coma.
She was with her brother in Tehran when she was arrested by morality police, who accused her of breaking the law requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab, or headscarf, and their arms and legs with loose clothing, the BBC reported. She fell into the coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre.
There were reports that police beat Amini’s head with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles, Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif said.
The police have denied that she was mistreated and said she suffered “sudden heart failure”. But her family has said she was fit and healthy.
“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,” Nashif said.
She noted that the UN had received “numerous, and verified, videos of violent treatment of women” as morality police expanded their street patrols in recent months to crack down on those perceived to be wearing “loose hijab”.
“The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules,” she added, calling for their repeal, the report said.
An aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei paid a visit to Amini’s family on Monday and told them that “all institutions will take action to defend the rights that were violated”, the state media reported.
Senior MP Jalal Rashidi Koochi publicly criticized the morality police, saying the force was a “mistake” as it had only produced “loss and damage” for Iran, the BBC said.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, authorities in Iran imposed a mandatory dress code requiring all women to wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothing that disguises their figures in public.
Morality police – known formally as “Gasht-e Ershad” (Guidance Patrols) – are tasked, among other things, with ensuring women conform with the authorities’ interpretation of “proper” clothing.
Officers have the power to stop women and assess whether they are showing too much hair; their trousers and overcoats are too short or close-fitting; or they are wearing too much make-up. Punishments for violating the rules include a fine, prison or flogging.
In 2014, Iranian women began sharing photos and videos of themselves publicly flouting the hijab laws as part of an online protest campaign called “My Stealthy Freedom”. It has since inspired other movements, including “White Wednesdays” and “Girls of Revolution Street”.