Pressure has mounted on Iran over the death in custody of a young Iranian woman as the UN's top rights official and an Iranian lawmaker issued separate public appeals over the tragedy and the deadly unrest it has sparked.
Iranian officials have labeled the death in Tehran of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her detention by the country's morality police an "unfortunate incident" but dismissed accusations of mistreatment as street protests spread to the capital and other cities.
Local and international rights groups as well as critics of Iran's hard-line religious leadership have demanded accountability over the incident.
"Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif today expressed alarm at the death in custody of Mahsa Amini...and the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests," Nashif's office said in a statement on September 20.
Doctors on September 16 declared Kurdistan Province resident Mahsa Amini dead after she showed no brain activity since falling into a coma after being admitted to a hospital, sources told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. That was three days after she was taken into custody by the so-called Guidance Patrol in Tehran for allegedly breaking the country's strict Islamic dress code for women. Eyewitnesses told journalists Amini appeared to have been beaten inside the police vehicle. Iranian lawmaker Jalal Rashidi Koochi, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on September 20 as questioning the effectiveness of the Guidance Patrol, known as Gasht-e Ershad in Persian, given their actions. "Gasht-e Ershad is wrong because it has had a result nothing other than loss and damage for the country," Koochi said, adding that "the main problem is that some people resist accepting the truth." "Do the people who are taken to these explanatory classes by the Guidance Patrol become conscious and repent when they come out [of custody]?" Koochi asked. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi claimed that Amini had a previous illness and that the morality police "basically do not have the tools to beat the detainees." A top medical official in a different province has since come out to publicly challenge officials' account of Amini's death based on images of her body.
At least four people have died in protests stemming from Amini's death, according to the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, a group that monitors Kurdish-inhabited areas of western Iran, where protests have been most intense.
Tehran Governor Mohsen Mansuri tweeted overnight on September 19-20 that "the main elements of tonight's gatherings in Tehran were fully organized, trained, and planned to create disturbances in Tehran." "Burning the flag, pouring diesel on the roads, throwing stones, attacking the police, setting fire to motorcycles and garbage cans, destroying public property, etc. are not the work of ordinary people," he said.