Protests in Iran over the death in custody of a young Kurdish woman entered a third day on Monday, as a commander claimed police had been the subject of “cowardly accusations”.
Protesters threw rocks at security forces in the town of Divandarreh in Kurdistan, a video posted on Twitter by Kurdish rights group Hengaw showed. A widely followed Iranian Twitter account that focuses on protests in Iran said shopkeepers had gone on strike in Kurdish cities.
Students rallied, including at the capital’s Tehran and Shahid Beheshti Universities, demanding “clarification” on how Mahsa Amini died, according to Fars and Tasnim news agencies. Protests were also reported in other universities.
Stepping up denials of any wrongdoing in the death, the Greater Tehran police commander Hossein Rahimi said Amini had suffered no physical harm and that police had “done everything” to keep her alive. “This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish to never witness such incidents,” Rahimi said, describing accusations of mistreatment as “cowardly”.
Amini was visiting Tehran with her family on Tuesday last week when she was detained by morality police in what Amnesty International called “an arbitrary arrest”.
Police accused her of not complying with the country’s strict hijab regulation and took her to a police station, telling her family she would be released after a “re-education” session.
However, she was subsequently transferred in a coma to the emergency department of a nearby hospital. Pictures of her face in hospital showed discolouring around her ears that seemed consistent with physical blows. She died on Friday.
Official police department reports say Amini died after suffering a heart attack, but her family hold police responsible.
Videos shared on Twitter late on Sunday showed protesters demonstrating in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province. A video posted by Hengaw showed security forces in riot gear running down a street in the city, at least one of them firing what appeared to be a gun.
State media has also reported that protesters smashed car windows and set fire to street bins. Crowds of men and women were shown protesting and questioning the validity of the police’s explanation of Amini’s death.
Amini was buried in her home town of Saqqez in western Kurdistan province on Saturday. Despite efforts from officials to limit the number of attenders, about 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony.
Demonstrations escalated after authorities attempted to deny responsibility for Amini’s death by showing edited footage of her collapsing in custody.
Protests have also taken place in the Iranian capital Tehran, where groups of students were filmed gathering outside faculty buildings, chanting against “servitidue, joblesness, and mandatory hijab for women.” On Sunday a group of about 100 students carried placards reading “women, life, freedom”, words that were also heard at Amini’s funeral.
Young Iranians also showed their solidarity with Amini’s family on social media, which has long served as a safer space for expressing dissatisfaction with the government. Women filmed themselves cutting their hair in protest and posted the videos under the hashtag #Mahsa_Amini.
The protests are taking place amid a worsening economic situation and a crackdown on women’s rights. Inflation hit 52% in June and prices of key food products have been rising sharply.
The hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, signed a decree on 15 August clamping down on women’s dress and stipulating harsher punishments for violating the strict code, in public and online.
Women have been arrested across the country after the national “hijab and chastity day” declared on 12 July. One of the women was Sepideh Rashno, a writer and artist who was reportedly beaten and tortured in custody before making a forced apology on television.
Reuters contributed to this report