Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an independent investigation to shed light on the recent death of a 16-year-old Iranian girl said to have been assaulted at a Tehran metro station for not wearing a mandatory headscarf.
Armita Geravand fell, unconscious, on the platform of a Tehran metro station on October 1. She was taken to a hospital where she remained in a coma for 28 days.
The authorities said the high school student had fallen and injured her head after suffering a sudden drop in blood pressure, but reports strongly suggest that she was physically assaulted by a hijab enforcement officer.
During Armita’s October 29 burial, authorities assaulted mourners and arrested dozens of people, including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.
Security forces have prevented Armita’s family and friends from speaking to the media, while journalists have faced reprisals for reporting on the teenager’s situation.
On October 28, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that prosecutors had charged journalists Milad Alavi and Sara Masoumi, as well as political commentator Sadegh Ziba Kalam, “for claiming Geravand was assaulted.”
In a statement on November 2, Michael Page, deputy director in the Middle East and North Africa division at HRW, called on governments across the world to “press Iranian authorities to allow investigators, human rights defenders, and journalists to speak to witnesses of abuses directly without fear of reprisals.”
He said that the authorities have “repeatedly made false claims to cover up serious abuses,” adding that Iran’s official news outlets “have a long history of parading critics of the government and their family members on national TV, where they are forced to make so-called ‘confessions’ or public statements.”