Iranian leader promises ‘steadfast’ investigation into young woman’s death

Iranian leader promises ‘steadfast’ investigation into young woman’s death

United Nations Iran (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

United Nations Iran (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The death of an Iranian woman in the custody of the country’s morality police must be investigated “steadfastly,” Iran’s president said Thursday, even as he turned the tables on the country he visited for the United Nations General Assembly and asked: What about all those people killed by American police?

– Were all these deaths investigated? said Ebrahim Raisi at a press conference held in New York on the sidelines of the annual meeting of world leaders. He lamented what he said were “double standards” in the West regarding human rights.

On Mahsa Amini’s death, which has led to clashes between protesters and security forces in Iran, he said the authorities did what they needed to do.

“It certainly needs to be investigated,” he said. “I contacted her family at the first opportunity and I assured them that we would continue steadfastly to investigate the incident. … Our greatest concern is to safeguard the rights of every citizen.”

Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angered by the death have killed at least nine people since violence erupted over the weekend, according to a Thursday tally from The Associated Press. Iranian police say Amini, detained for violating the morality police’s strict dress code, died of a heart attack and was not mistreated. Her family has cast doubt on that account.

The extent of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in years, remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities – venting anger over social repression and the country’s mounting crises – continue to clash with security forces and paramilitaries.

Raisi, who formally addressed the general assembly on Wednesday, pointed out that bad things happen to people at the hands of the authorities everywhere.

“What about the deaths of Americans at the hands of US law enforcement?” he asked about the country’s rival nation, and also mentioned deaths of women in Britain which he said were not investigated. He called for the “same standard” around the world in handling such deaths at the hands of the authorities.

Raisi’s comparison reflects a common approach by Iranian leaders, who when confronted with allegations of rights abuses often point to Western society and its “hegemony” and demand that those nations be similarly held accountable. However, neither the US nor the UK has a morality police that has authority over citizens.

Raisi, who headed the country’s judiciary before becoming president, said the investigation into Amini’s death ultimately rests there. While elections and open debate take place in Iran, the top echelons of government cut close to the supreme leader, who has the final say on key state affairs and appoints the head of the judiciary.

The protests have grown over the past five days into an open challenge to the government, with women removing and burning their state-issued headscarves in the streets and Iranians calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself. They are the most serious demonstrations since 2019, when protests broke out over a public increase in petrol prices.

While he did not directly condemn the protests, he appeared to side with the deadly response that has left some protesters dead.

“What is happening, having demonstrations … of course this is normal and fully accepted,” he said. “We must distinguish between protesters and vandalism. Demonstrations are good for expressing specific issues.”

He added: “There is debate in Iran.”

The demonstrations in Iran began as an emotional outpouring over the death of Amini, whose death has been condemned by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

The US government imposed sanctions on the morality police and heads of other Iranian security agencies, saying they “routinely use violence to suppress peaceful protesters”.

Iranian police say Amini died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family has cast doubt on that account. Independent experts affiliated with the United Nations said on Thursday that reports suggested she was severely beaten by the morality police, without providing evidence.

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Aya Batrawy, an AP journalist based in Dubai, is on assignment covering the UN General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ayaelb and for more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly

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