| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

Iranian girl in critical condition after alleged encounter over hijab, activists say

According to two renowned rights advocates, an Iranian teenager girl is in serious condition in hospital after falling into a coma during a confrontation with agents on the Tehran metro for breaching the hijab rule.

Armita Geravand’s case is very sensitive, sparking fears that the 16-year-old may suffer the same fate as Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman whose murder in morality police custody last year provoked months of widespread outcry.

While officials have refuted rights groups’ reports that Geravand fell into a coma on Sunday after a clash with officers enforcing the Islamic dress code, the Iranian-Kurdish rights group Hengaw shared a photo of her unconscious in a Tehran hospital where she was transferred following the incident.

There was no immediate response from Iran’s interior ministry to a request for comment about the incident.

“We are following her case closely. She is in coma at Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and her condition is critical … her relatives said there is a heavy presence of plain clothes at the hospital,” one of the activists in Iran said.

The second activist said security forces had forbidden Geravand’s parents from posting her picture on social media or from talking to human rights groups.

The activists spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

CCTV footage, shared on IRNA, showed Geravand without mandatory hijab accompanied by two female friends walking toward the train from the metro platform. Upon entering the cabin, one of the girls is seen immediately backing off and reaching for the ground, before another girl is dragged unconscious from the cabin by passengers.

The head of the Tehran Metro Operating Company, Masoud Dorosti, told IRNA the CCTV footage showed no sign of verbal or physical conflict between passengers or company employees.

An Iranian journalist was briefly arrested on Monday when she went to the hospital to inquire about Geravand’s situation, Iranian media reported.

“Iranian security institutions have said her condition was caused by low pressure – an oft-repeated scenario from such institutions,” Iran-based rights group Dadban said on social media.

In a video posted on the state news agency IRNA, her parents said that their daughter had suffered a drop in blood pressure, lost her balance, and hit her head inside the metro cabin.

“I think my daughter’s blood pressure dropped, I am not too sure, I think they have said her pressure dropped,” her mother said. But she added that there was no point in creating controversy.

Rights groups on social media have called on authorities to publish the footage from inside the cabin, claiming that her parents’ statement was made under duress.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on social media platform X said: “Once again a young woman in #Iran is fighting for her life. Just because she showed her hair in the subway. It is unbearable. The parents of #ArmitaGarawand do not belong in front of cameras, but have the right to be at their daughter’s bedside.”

  • Reuters