An Iranian teenager injured a few weeks ago during a mysterious incident in the Tehran metro while she was not wearing a headscarf has died, state media reported Saturday.
Armita Geravand’s death comes after she was in a coma for weeks in Tehran and after the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, which sparked nationwide protests.
Geravand’s October 1 injury and now death threaten to reignite popular anger, especially as women in Tehran and elsewhere continue to defy Iran’s mandatory headscarf law, or hijab, as a sign of their discontent towards the Iranian theocracy.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Geravand’s death, without mentioning the broader unrest surrounding the headscarf law.
What happened in the few seconds after Armita Geravand entered the train on October 1 remains unclear. While a friend told Iranian national television that she had hit her head on the station platform, the silent footage broadcast by the channel from outside the car was blocked by a passerby. A few seconds later, his limp body is carried away.
However, the Iranian state television report included no footage from inside the train itself and offered no explanation for why it was not broadcast. Most Tehran metro carriages are equipped with several CCTV cameras, visible to security personnel.
Geravand’s parents appeared in state media footage saying a blood pressure problem, a fall or perhaps both contributed to their daughter’s injury.
Activists abroad said Geravand could have been pushed or attacked because he was not wearing a hijab.
They also demanded an independent investigation by the United Nations fact-finding mission on Iran, citing the theocracy’s use of pressure on victims’ families and the fact that state television broadcast hundreds of forced confession.
The Associated Press was unable to confirm the exact circumstances of Geravand’s injuries.
The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, which reports on abuses in Iran’s western Kurdish region and earlier published a photo of Geravand in a coma, renewed calls on Saturday for an independent international investigation , citing “the Islamic Republic’s practice of concealing the truth.”
“Over the past 28 days, the Islamic Republic of Iran has attempted to distort the narrative of the government’s murder of this teenage girl,” the group said.
Geravand was injured at the Meydan-E Shohada, or Martyrs’ Square, metro station in southern Tehran. Rumors about how she suffered the injury quickly circulated, which was not mentioned in the IRNA report on her death on Saturday.
“Unfortunately, the victim’s brain damage caused her to spend some time in a coma and she died a few minutes ago,” the IRNA report said.
“According to the official theory of Armita Geravand’s doctors, after a sudden drop in blood pressure, she suffered a fall, brain damage, followed by continued convulsions, decreased cerebral oxygenation and edema cerebral.”
Geravand’s injury also came as Iran has put its morality police — which activists implicate in Amini’s death — back on the streets and as lawmakers work to impose even tougher sanctions on those who do not respect the compulsory wearing of headgear.
Internationally, Geravand’s injury sparked renewed criticism of Iran’s treatment of women and the compulsory hijab law.
Amini died in a hospital on September 16, 2022, after being arrested by Iranian moral police based on allegations of inappropriately wearing a hijab.
Suspicions that she had been beaten during her arrest led to mass protests that represented the biggest challenge to Iran’s theocratic government since the revolution.
Since these large-scale protests subsided, many women in Tehran have been seen without the hijab, in defiance of the law.
Meanwhile, imprisoned Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi won the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month in recognition of her tireless campaign for women’s rights and democracy, as well as against the death penalty.
The Iranian government criticized the awarding of the prize as a political stunt, without acknowledging its own decades-long campaign targeting Mohammadi for his work.
Iran remains crushed by sanctions and faces ever-increasing tensions with the West over its rapidly advancing nuclear program and its aid to regional militant groups, including renewed focus on its relations with Hamas after this group’s unprecedented attack on Israel and its war with Israel.
For practicing Muslim women, head covering is a sign of piety before God and modesty before men outside their family.
In Iran, the hijab – and the black chador worn by some – has also long been a political symbol, particularly after becoming compulsory in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran and neighboring Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban, are the only countries where the hijab remains compulsory for women.