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    Hijab Rules Must Go, Says UN Human Rights Office

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    Hijab Rules Must Go, Says UN Human Rights Office

    The death of a young woman in the custody of Iran’s ‘morality police’ has led to protests across the country. The government has come down with a heavy hand on the protestors, with security forces responding with live ammunition, pellet guns and teargas and arrests.

    Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish women, died in police custody on Friday, after she was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” (also called the “Guidance Patrol”) for wearing an “improper” hijab, the customary veil worn by Muslim women.

    The young women, also known among her friends by her Kurdish name Jhina, fell into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre. Police explained away the death as one due to a heart attack – there have been no takers for this official version.

    The death has sparked large protests across the country as thousands have taken to the streets in cities across the country, including in Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Rasht, Saqqes and Sanandaj.

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    The government has come down with a heavy hand on the protestors. Security forces have responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and teargas and at three people have reportedly been killed and several injured, and a number have been arrested.

    A blood-spattered images of a 10-year-old have gone viral over social media platforms. So have videos young men and women shouting slogans against the country’s clerical leadership.

    The government of Iran has dismissed the protests as “a plot by the enemy”. Lawmakers have also passed a legislation allowing police to send text messages to women in their cars, telling them to not to take off their hijabs while driving.

    Hijab rules should go

    In the meanwhile, as the protests draw more people even in the face of police high-handedness, the protesters have received support from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

    In Geneva, Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for OHCHR, said that there was deep concern at the violent response of Iran’s security forces to protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death.

    The OHCHR has expressed its deep concern at the violent response of Iran’s security forces to the protests. The acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, expressed alarm at the deaths in custody.

    OHCHR has come heavily on rules making it compulsory for women to wear the hijab.

    “The bottom line is that these rules should not exist, women should not be punished for what they are wearing”, Shamdasani said.

    “Women who defy these compulsory veiling rules should not be harassed, should not be subjected to violence and there needs to be a fair investigation.”

    Need prompt, impartial investigation

    Nada Al-Nashif said the 22 year-old’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”.

    The acting rights chief also condemned the reported unnecessary or disproportionate use of force against those protesting the Kurdish woman’s death, inside Vozara Detention Centre, and called on Iran – a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to respect the right to peacefully exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association.

    She also echoed previous concerns voiced by UN Secretary-General António Guterres over the ongoing repression of women human rights defenders, who object to compulsory veiling.

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