NEW YORK (AP) — The death of an Iranian woman in the custody of the country’s morality police must be “firmly” investigated, Iran’s president said Thursday, even as he circled the country he was visiting for the General Assembly. of the UN and asked: What about all the people killed by the American police?
“Were all these deaths investigated?” Ebrahim Raisi said at a news conference in New York on the sidelines of the annual meeting of world leaders. He lamented what he said were “double standards” in the West regarding human rights.
On Mahsa Amini’s death, which has sparked clashes between protesters and security forces in Iran, he said the authorities were doing what they had to do.
“It certainly needs to be investigated,” he said. “I contacted his family at the earliest opportunity and assured them that we would continue to investigate this incident. … Our greatest concern is safeguarding the rights of all citizens.”
Clashes between Iranian security forces and death-angered protesters have killed at least nine people since violence erupted over the weekend, according to a Thursday tally by The Associated Press. Iranian police say Amini, detained for violating the morality police’s strict dress code, died of a heart attack and was not mistreated. His family has questioned that account.
The extent of the ongoing unrest in Iran, the worst in several years, remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities, expressing anger at the country’s social repression and growing crises, continue to clash. security forces and paramilitaries.
Raisi, who formally addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday, noted that bad things happen to people at the hands of authorities everywhere.
“What about the deaths of Americans at the hands of American law enforcement?” he asked about his country’s rival nation and also mentioned the deaths of women in Britain which he said were not investigated. He called for the “same standard” throughout the world in dealing with such deaths at the hands of authorities.
Raisi’s comparison reflects a common approach of Iranian leaders, who when faced with accusations of rights violations often point to Western society and its “hegemony” and demand that those nations be held accountable as well. However, neither the United States nor Great Britain has a morality police vested with authority over citizens.
Raisi, who headed the country’s judiciary before becoming president, said the investigation into Amini’s death was ultimately based there. While elections and open debates take place in Iran, the highest levels of government report closely to the supreme leader, who has the final say on key state issues and appoints the head of the judiciary.
The protests over the past five days have turned into open defiance of the government, with women removing and burning their state-mandated veils in the streets and Iranians calling for the fall of the Islamic Republic itself. They are the most serious demonstrations since 2019, when protests broke out over a government hike in gasoline prices.
While he did not openly condemn the protests, he appeared alongside the lethal response that has left some protesters dead.
“What is happening, having demonstrations… of course they are normal and totally accepted,” he said. “You have to differentiate between protesters and vandalism. Demonstrations are good for expressing specific topics.”
He added: “There is debate in Iran.”
The demonstrations in Iran began as an emotional outpouring over the death of Amini, whose death has been condemned by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
The US government has imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and other security agency leaders, saying they “routinely use violence to suppress peaceful protesters.”
Iranian police say Amini died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has disputed that point. Independent experts affiliated with the UN said Thursday that reports suggested she was severely beaten by the morality police, without offering evidence.
Aya Batrawy, a Dubai-based AP journalist, is assigned to cover the UN General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at and for more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit