Armita Garawand is a 16-year-old Iranian schoolgirl from the Kurdish city of Kermanshah in western Iran who lives in Tehran. On October 2, 2022, she was hospitalized and fell into a coma after an alleged assault by Iran’s morality police at the Shohada metro station in Tehran.
According to the Kurdish-focused human rights group Hengaw, Garawand was severely beaten by female officers from Iran’s morality police after refusing to wear her headscarf properly. The morality police enforce Iran’s strict rules mandating headscarves and modest clothing for women.
Video footage on social media showed Garawand being carried off a metro train by other passengers and left lying motionless on the platform, apparently unconscious.
Conflicting Accounts of What Happened
Hengaw stated that after the assault, Garawand was taken to Tehran’s Fajr Hospital unconscious and with serious injuries. The hospital has allegedly refused visitation, even from her family. A female journalist, Maryam Lotfi, was briefly detained when trying to visit Garawand at the hospital.
However, Iranian authorities deny that any assault took place. Masood Dorosti, managing director of the Tehran metro system, claimed there was no verbal or physical confrontation between Garawand and other passengers or metro staff. He cited CCTV footage that purportedly disproves the assault allegations.
Iranian state media also published an interview with Garawand’s parents, denying she was attacked and claiming she fainted due to low blood pressure. Given Iran’s record of coercing family statements, many doubt the sincerity of the interview.
Parallels to the Death of Mahsa Amini
The alleged assault on Garawand is reminiscent of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022. Amini fell into a coma and died after being detained by the morality police for violating headscarf rules.
Amini’s death ignited massive nationwide protests in Iran, known as the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. Demonstrators called for an end to mandatory hijab rules and the morality police.
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Garawand’s case has again put Iran on edge, with many seeing it as history repeating itself. There are renewed fears of violence by security forces against women over hijab noncompliance.
Iran’s Efforts to Re-Enforce Hijab Rules
Since Amini’s death, Iranian authorities have tried to re-enforce compulsory hijab-wearing through legislation and crackdowns. However, enforcement remains lax in some cities where women increasingly forego headscarves.
Plainclothes morality police patrol areas like metro stations to check for hijab violations. Critics argue this police intimidation further restricts women’s rights.
The government has also increased censorship and suppressed reporting on hijab-related assaults. Two journalists who reported on Amini remain jailed on dubious national security charges.
Response to the Garawand Case
News of Garawand’s hospitalization and alleged beating has been met with outrage. Critics compare Amini’s death and argue the morality police still systematically abuse women.
There are calls for investigations and accountability. But with Iran denying wrongdoing, many doubt a transparent process is possible.
Some fear Garawand’s case could spark more unrest if she dies from injuries. For now, activists continue pushing for women’s rights and monitoring Garawand’s condition closely as she remains in a coma.