Iran confirms first deaths in protests over Mahsa Amini’s death

An Iranian governor has confirmed the first fatalities during protests over the death in police custody of a young woman named Mahsa Amini – but the governor has said the three individuals were killed by anti-establishment elements.

Esmail Zarei Kousha, the governor of the northwestern Kurdistan province, told reporters on Tuesday that three people died “suspiciously” during “illegal protests” in recent days, according to state-affiliated media.

“Investigations have shown that these people were shot and killed by those working against the establishment and with firearms that are not employed by any tiers of security or law enforcement forces in the province,” he said.

According to the governor, one person died in Divandareh, another was left in a car near a hospital in Saqqez, and a third “suspicious” death is being investigated.

Families must be careful because “anti-revolutionary” groups wish to use Mahsa Amini’s name as a code to advance their own goals, Zarei Kousha said, in a likely reference to a phrase that has been mentioned many times after being written on Amini’s grave: “You won’t die, your name will become a code”.

The 22-year-old Amini was travelling away from her home in Saqqez and was in Tehran with family last week when she was detained by the so-called morality police for wearing an “improper” hijab.

When in a “guidance centre” later the same day, she had a stroke and a heart attack and was transferred to a nearby hospital, where she died several days later.

Her family has explicitly denied claims by Tehran’s police chief earlier this week that she was not beaten, that she had several pre-existing conditions like epilepsy and diabetes, and that she had violated Iran’s mandatory hijab rules in effect since shortly after the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.