By Parisa Hafezi and Elwely Elwelly
DUBAI, Oct 5 (Reuters) – An Iranian rights group said that security forces on Thursday arrested the mother of a teenage girl who was in a coma in hospital following a confrontation with agents in the Tehran metro for not wearing the hijab.
Iran’s judiciary denied the report by the Iranian-Kurdish rights group Hengaw on the X social media platform.
Iranian authorities also deny reports by rights activists that the 16-year-old girl, Armita Geravand, was injured on Sunday in a confrontation with officers enforcing the country’s Islamic dress code, which requires women to wear a head covering.
Hengaw said that security forces arrested Geravand’s mother Shahin Ahmadi on Thursday near the hospital where her daughter was taken after the incident.
State news agency IRNA reported that the judiciary denied any arrest having taken place. It said that unidentified enemies were spreading rumours about Geravand’s “loss of consciousness” for their own gain, without elaborating.
Rights groups fear that Geravand might face the same fate as Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman whose death in a coma in September 2022 in the custody of morality police sparked weeks of nationwide anti-government protests in Iran’s most serious unrest for years. The protests led to a deadly crackdown by authorities.
A new hijab law has taken effect in Iran which imposes new punishments on women who do not wear it in public and President Ebrahim Raisi has taken a tough line.
U.N.-appointed rights officials last month expressed their concern over the law.
Two prominent rights activists told Reuters on Wednesday that Geravand fell into a coma following what they said was a confrontation with agents in the Tehran metro for violating the hijab law.
The Tehran Metro Operating Company told state news agency IRNA that CCTV footage showed no sign of verbal or physical conflict between passengers or company employees.
The hospitalisation of Geravand has already ignited anger on social media among Iranians who demand full video footage of what happened, including from inside a metro car.
“We have YET another beautiful girl in a coma all for the crime of bad hijab … her name is Armita Geravand. She is only 16,” human rights lawyer Gissou Nia, who serves as board chair of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, wrote on X.
Inconclusive CCTV footage shared by IRNA has showed Geravand without a hijab accompanied by two female friends walking toward a train from a metro platform. Upon entering the cabin, one of girls is seen immediately backing off and reaching for the ground, before another girl is dragged unconscious from the cabin by passengers.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage.
Geravand’s mother and father appeared in a video posted on IRNA on Wednesday saying that their daughter had suffered a drop in blood pressure, lost her balance, and hit her head inside the metro cabin.
Rights groups claim that statement was made under duress.
Iran’s theocratic government has imposed restrictions on women’s dress since a popular revolution deposed the secular and Western-backed Shah in 1979. Women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes.
Violators have faced public rebuke, fines or arrest yet in the months following last year’s unrest women were still widely seen unveiled in malls, restaurants, shops and streets around the country.
The incident has drawn condemnation from Western governments.
U.S. deputy special envoy for Iran Abram Paley wrote on X on Wednesday that Washington was following news of Geravand’s condition closely.
“Shocked and concerned about reports that Iran’s so-called morality police have assaulted 16-year-old Armita Geravand,” Paley said.
“We continue to stand with the brave people of Iran and work with the world to hold the regime accountable for its abuses.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had said on X: “Once again a young woman in #Iran is fighting for her life. Just because she showed her hair in the subway.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani responded on Thursday by criticizing the United States, Britain and Germany for remarks they made in the past week about women’s rights in Iran and Geravand’s case.
“Instead of interventionist and biased remarks and expressing insincere concern over Iranian women and girls, you’d better be concerned about U.S., German and UK healthcare personnel, patients and tackle their situation,” he wrote on the X social media platform.
(Reporting by Dubai NewsroomEditing by Bernadette Baum, Alison Williams, Alexandra Hudson)