PARIS (AFP) — Iranian authorities on Saturday prevented the family of Mahsa Amini from holding a ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of her death, confining her father to his home after briefly detaining him, rights groups said.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died a few days after her arrest by religious police for allegedly violating the strict dress code for women in force since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Her family says she died from a blow to the head but this is disputed by Iranian authorities.
Anger over her death rapidly expanded into weeks of taboo-breaking protests which saw women tearing off their mandatory headscarves in an open challenge to the Islamic Republic’s system of government under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Mahsa Amimi’s father Amjad Amini was detained while exiting the family home in the western town of Saqez and then released after being warned not to hold a memorial service at her graveside, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN), 1500tasvir monitor and Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said.
He was now not being allowed to leave the family home, with members of the security forces stationed outside, the groups added in separate statements.
“Amjad Amini is under house arrest… Security forces are preventing him from visiting his daughter’s grave,” said IHR.
#Iran: Mahsa Jina Amini’s father was detained again today, on the anniversary of his daughter’s killing in state custody.
He’s released, but now his family is under house arrest.
— IranHumanRights.org (@ICHRI) September 16, 2023
Official news agency IRNA described the reports of the arrest as “false,” saying they were aimed at “inciting the population to protest.”
Amjad Amini was already summoned by intelligence officials last week after his announcement he planned to hold a memorial ceremony. One of Amini’s uncles, Safa Aeli, was detained in Saqez on September 5 and remains in custody.
There was no sign of the ceremony taking place at her grave at the Aichi cemetery in Saqez, with the rights groups saying security forces had blocked access to the site.
‘Chokehold on dissent’
The protests sparked by Amini’s death lost momentum after several months in the face of a crackdown that saw security forces kill 551 protesters, according to IHR, and arrest more than 22,000, according to Amnesty International.
Iranian authorities say dozens of security personnel were also killed in what they describe as “riots” incited by foreign governments and hostile media.
Seven men have been executed after being convicted in protest-related cases.
Campaigners say the authorities have renewed their crackdown in the run-up to the anniversary, putting pressure on relatives of those killed in the protests in a bid to stop them speaking out.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said family members of at least 36 people killed or executed in the crackdown had been interrogated, arrested, prosecuted or sentenced to prison over the past month.
“Iranian authorities are trying to impose a chokehold on dissent to prevent public commemoration of Mahsa Jina Amini’s death in custody,” said HRW’s senior Iran researcher, Tara Sepehri Far.
امروز شنبه ۲۵ شهریور، همزمان با سالروز جانباختن #ژینا_امینی و آغاز خیزش #ژن_ژیان_ئازادی (#زن_زندگی_آزادی)، کسبه و بازاریان در شهرهای سقز، مهاباد، اشنویه، پیرانشهر، بوکان، دیواندره، سنندج، بانه، مریوان و کامیاران در اعتصاب کامل به سر میبرند. pic.twitter.com/Pxz8Znwujk
— Kurdistan Human Rights Network (@KurdistanHRN) September 16, 2023
Kurdish-focused group Hengaw said people in western Iran were expressing discontent through a general strike, with shops shut down in a dozen towns and cities including Saqez.
Persian-language channels based outside Iran, including Iran International, broadcast footage of residents shouting “Death to the dictator” and the main protest slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom” from apartment blocks in Tehran and its satellite city of Karaj overnight.
In a symbolic move, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met on Friday with families of security personnel killed during the protests while on a visit to the northeastern city of Mashhad, state media said.
While some women are still seen walking in public without headscarves, particularly in wealthy, traditionally liberal areas of north Tehran, the conservative-dominated parliament is currently considering a draft law that would impose far stiffer penalties for non-compliance.
“The Islamic Republic is doubling down on repression and reprisals against its citizens and seeking to introduce new and more draconian laws that severely restrict further the rights of women and girls,” said Sara Hossain, the chair of the UN fact-finding mission set up to investigate the crackdown.
Under the slogan “Say her name!” Iranian emigres are expected to hold commemorative rallies, with large demonstrations expected in Paris and Toronto.
On the eve of the anniversary, Iran’s arch-foe the United States and its Western allies including Britain and the European Union imposed new sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its protest crackdown.
Announcing the measures, US President Joe Biden led international calls in solidarity with Iranians on the anniversary of Amini’s death.
“Iranians alone will determine the fate of their country, but the United States remains committed to standing with them,” he said.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani slammed the Western countries’ “illegal and undiplomatic actions” in a statement late Friday.