Photo via Hengaw Organization

Iranian Teen Assaulted by Morality Police Dies in Coma 

The Iranian teenage girl, Armita Geravand, who was allegedly assaulted by the morality police for not wearing the compulsory headscarf, died on Saturday, October 28, state-run IRNA reported.

16-year-old Armita Geravand was rushed to hospital on October 1 after she collapsed at a Metro train in Iran’s capital Tehran. Rights groups said that Armita suffered “severe traumatic brain injury” after officers of the morality police subjected her to “physical assault.” However, Iranian authorities denied these allegations, saying she “fainted due to low blood pressure.”

According to IRNA, Armita died of “brain damage” on Saturday morning in a hospital, where she was in a coma for weeks. But Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, which reports on Iran’s Kurdish ethnic minority, said that she became the “latest victim of forced hijab and has died after 28 days of hospitalization in Tehran’s Fajr Hospital.” Hengaw called for an independent team by Doctors Without Borders, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN fact-finding committee to investigate her death.

The circumstance surrounding Armita’s injury at the Tehran Metro station was seen with suspicion. Farzad Seifikaran, an Iranian Radio Zamaneh reporter, said in a post on the X platform that Armita was “without a headscarf in the metro with her friends and the [Iranian] officers got hold of them and pushed the girl, and her head hit a metal bar and she fainted.”

The Hengaw organization posted a photo on X showing Armita in the intensive care unit with her head wrapped in a bandage. The group said that the hospital premises were under serious restrictions by Iranian authorities blocking visitation. Iranian journalist Maryam Lotfi, who wanted to report on Armita’s situation, was briefly detained by authorities. Due to concerns about leaked information, the group added that the Iranian authorities had transferred Armita to an “undisclosed” room in the same hospital and replaced medical staff.

16-year-old Armita Geravand remained in a coma for weeks. Photo: Iran Press News Agency

According to the Hengaw, the authorities allowed her parents to visit her once briefly, adding that Shahin Ahmadi, Armita’s mother, was detained on October 5 before seeing her daughter. A day later, Armita’s parents appeared in a state-run media, saying a blood pressure or fall could have led to their daughter’s injury. According to the Hengaw, the interview was recorded “under duress.”

Iranian authorities have been repeatedly accused of forcing families and relatives to give involuntary statements on such occasions. Referring to Armita’s case, Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, said that the state’s culture of impunity is undeniable. “Girls are subjected to violence on the streets, and then their families are compelled to protect the government responsible for that violence.”

Iranian authorities have recently intensified surveillance and dispatched hundreds of special security units to enforce hijab compliance in social spaces, including in Tehran’s metro stations, according to Iran International. Iranian state media released muted footage from the station showing a young girl with black hair—said to be high school student Armita— trying to enter the metro. Later, she loses her control and is dragged by those near the platform before she collapses. KabulNow could not verify the authenticity of the video.

Many compared Armita’s to the situation of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who died in police custody last year. Her death prompted a wave of mass protests across Iran abroad. The demonstrations were led by women, and its slogan “Woman, life, freedom,” became a symbol of women’s struggle for freedom around the world. During the protests, women cut their hair in solidarity, walked on the streets without headscarves, or burned them in a bid to defy the state’s compulsory dress code. Still, however, many like human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, remain behind bars.

The state responded to the protests with a severe crackdown on protestors with thousands intimidated and detained—many of whom were tortured in custody. According to the U.N., more than 500 people were killed, some were publicly executed. Last month, the Iranian parliament approved a new Hijab Bill, described by the UN as a form of gender apartheid, in a bid to impose even more severe punishments and exorbitant fines, particularly on women if they refused to comply. Activists say the compulsory hijab law is a political tool used by the regime to oppress and control women rather than a religious mandate.