According to reports on social media, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by so-called “morality police” earlier this week after officers apparently found faults with her headscarf or hijab.
The headscarf for women in Iran has been compulsory since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and members of the vice squad enforce the strict dress code.
Police said Thursday that Amini, who was arrested on Tuesday, was taken to a hospital after allegedly suffering a heart attack while in custody. Pro-reform news websites quoted one of Amini’s uncles as saying she had no history of heart disease.
On Friday, police said there had been no violence against officers and Amini or any physical contact between them during their detention. Police also released closed-circuit footage, which appeared to show Amini with other detainees inside a police station.
At one point, she gets up from a chair, walks over to another woman to talk to her, then holds her head with both hands, stumbles into a chair, and collapses. In the next segment of footage, she is carried away on a stretcher.
The Iranian judiciary’s official website, Mizan.news, says Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Ali Salehi, has assigned a police team of forensic pathologists to investigate the medical aspects of the case.
Iran’s Morality Police have been criticized for their treatment of people, particularly young women, in recent years, and videos uploaded to social media showed officers forcing women into police vehicles.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for a softer stance on women who don’t conform to the official dress code.
But hardliners have called for harsh punishment and even lashes, arguing that allowing women to show their hair will lead to moral decay and the breakdown of families. The judiciary in recent years has urged people to inform about women not wearing hijab.
Authorities have taken tougher action since 2017, after dozens of women publicly removed their headscarves in a wave of protests.
Amini’s case was condemned by Iranian celebrities, athletes and other public figures.
Former pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami said the behavior of the vice squad was a “disaster”, while outspoken politician and former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi urged Khamenei to speak publicly about Amini’s case.
Popular former soccer player Ali Karimi tweeted that “our children are dying” while children of senior officials are leaving the country.
Hossein Mahini, another former soccer player, said in a tweet to the vice squad: “We hate you guys.”
US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley tweeted that Amini’s death “in custody because of an ‘improper’ hijab is appalling”. He added: “Those responsible for her death should be held accountable.”