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U.N. calls for investigation into Iranian woman's death

Protesters demonstrate with placards showing deceased Mahsa Amini in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday. Photo by Clemens Bilan/EPA-EFE
Protesters demonstrate with placards showing deceased Mahsa Amini in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday. Photo by Clemens Bilan/EPA-EFE

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The United Nations Human Rights Office has called on Tehran to investigate the death of a young Iranian woman who was arrested last week by the country's so-called morality police over allegations of breaking strict laws on wearing hijab.

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was arrested on Sept. 13 but died Friday at Tehran's Vozara Detention Centre after slipping into a comma.

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The morality police have been accused of beating her but authorities reject the charges.

Her death has sparked days of anti-government protests nationwide, which have been met by a violent crackdown by the authorities.

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Nada Al-Nashif, acting U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement Tuesday that Amini's death, and allegations that she was tortured and ill-treated, "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."

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The U.N. Human Rights Office said her death comes as morality police have expanded patrols in recent months that target women with verbal and physical abuse as well as arrest for incorrectly observing the nation's laws governing the wearing of head scarfs, known as hijba.

The office added that it has received "numerous and verified" videos of women being slapped across the face, beaten with batons and thrown into police vans.

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"The authorities must stop targeting, harassing and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules," Al-Nashif said, calling on Tehran to repeal its hijab laws.

In the United States, which has sought to revive a nuclear pact with Iran, Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarity called on the Iranian government led by President Ebrahim Raisi to "end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest."

"Mahsa Amini should be alive today," he tweeted. "Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her."

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The European Union also demanded those responsible for Amini's death to be held to account.

"It is imperative that the Iranian authorities ensure that fundamental rights of its citizens are respected and that those who are under any form of detention are not subject to any form of mistreatment," Peter Stano, lead spokesman for the external affairs of the EU, said in a statement.

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Italy's foreign ministry similarly on Tuesday said that it hoped the perpetrators "for this cowardly act" will be identified and held accountable.

"Violence against innocent people, especially women and girls, can never be tolerated," it said in a statement.

In Iran, Foreign Affairs Minister Amir Abdollahian rejected the criticism, saying they have ordered an investigation into Amini's death, accusing the United states of "shedding crocodile tears" over the matter.

"An investigation was ordered into [the] tragic death of Mahsa, who, as [the] president said, was just like our own daughters," he tweeted. "To Iran, human rights are of inherent value -- unlike those who see it a tool against adversaries."

The situation has also attracted the concern of human rights groups with Amnesty International calling on Iran to open a criminal investigation into Amini's death and Human Rights Watch issuing a wide-sweeping condemnation of the Iran regime over the situation.

"Cracking down with teargas and lethal force against protesters demanding accountability for a woman's death in police custody reinforces the systematic nature of government rights abuses and impunity," Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"Mahsa Amini should never have been arrested. Iran's abusive 'morality police' should be abolished and compulsory hijab laws and others that violate women's rights should be rescinded immediately."

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Raisi is schedule to speak before world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

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