Iranian security forces briefly detained the father of Mahsa Amini on Saturday amid a heavy security presence on the first anniversary of her death in police custody that sparked months of anti-government protests.
“Security forces detained Amjad Amini today and returned him to his house after threatening him against marking his daughter’s death anniversary,” the Kurdistan Human Rights network said, according to Arab News.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency denied that Amjad Amini was arrested, but it did not say if he was briefly detained or warned.
The death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman in the custody of the morality police last year on 16 September for allegedly flouting the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code triggered months of protests that represented the biggest show of opposition to the authorities in years.
Many called for an end to more than four decades of Shi’ite clerical rule.
Amini’s parents had said in a statement earlier this week that, despite government warnings, they would hold a “traditional and religious anniversary ceremony” at their daughter’s grave in Saqez.
Security forces took up positions around Amini’s home in Saqez, in western Iran, according to rights groups. Widespread strikes were also reported in multiple cities in Iran’s Kurdistan region.
However, IRNA said Amini’s hometown of Saqez was “completely quiet” and that calls for strike in Kurdish areas had failed due to “people’s vigilance and the presence of security and military forces”.
It quoted an official in the Kurdistan province as saying: “A number of agents affiliated with counter-revolutionary groups who had planned to create chaos and prepare media fodder were arrested in the early hours of this morning.”
In the protests that followed Amini’s death more than 500 people, including 71 minors, were killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested, rights groups said. Iran carried out seven executions linked to the unrest.
In a report last month, Amnesty International said Iranian authorities “have been subjecting victims’ families to arbitrary arrest and detention, imposing cruel restrictions on peaceful gatherings at grave sites, and destroying victims’ gravestones”.
On Friday, UK’s foreign secretary James Cleverly announced new sanctions, targeting senior decision makers who are enforcing Iran’s mandatory hijab law. “Today’s sanctions on those responsible for Iran’s oppressive laws send a clear message that the UK and our partners will continue to stand with Iranian women and call out the repression it is inflicting on its own people,” Mr Cleverly said.
Those sanctioned include Iran’s minister for culture and Islamic guidance, his deputy, the mayor of Tehran, and an Iranian police spokesperson, the Foreign Office said. He said the sanctions were coordinated with similar moves by the United States, Canada and Australia.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani slammed the “illegal and undiplomatic actions” in a statement issued on Friday.
Mr Kanani condemned the “interventionist actions and statements and ridiculous and hypocritical” displays of support for the protest movement, according to AFP.
US President Joe Biden issued a statement acknowledging the anniversary of Amini’s death.
“Jill [the first lady] and I join people around the world in remembering her – and every brave Iranian citizen who has been killed, wounded or imprisoned by the Iranian regime for peacefully demanding democracy and their basic human dignity,” Mr Biden said.
Iran’s government, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have blamed the West for fomenting the unrest, without offering evidence to support the allegation.
“One year since the nationwide protests in the aftermath of the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, harassment of women and girls by Iranian authorities are on the rise,” an independent UN investigative body said on Thursday.
A government probe into the death fell “far short” of international standards, including the requirements of independence and transparency, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Iran said.
“Jina Mahsa should never have been arrested in the first place,” said Sara Hossain, Chair of the Human Rights Council-appointed mission.
(With additional reporting by agencies)