A teenage girl has been hospitalized and is reportedly in a coma after she was captured on surveillance cameras inside a Tehran metro station without a hijab. Moments after 16-year-old Armita Geravand is seen on video entering a subway car, she was carried out by passengers, unconscious.
Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw claims Geravand suffered a “severe physical assault” on Oct. 1 at the hands of Iranian morality police for not wearing a head covering, mandatory only for women in the country. Meanwhile, state-run media reports that she suffered a drop in blood pressure and fainted, which caused her to hit her head.
On Thursday, Hengaw and Reuters reported that Geravand’s mother was arrested near the hospital where her daughter is being treated.
Geravand’s hospitalization has drawn parallels to the case of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in hospital last year after being detained by the morality police for allegedly not wearing a hijab. Amini’s death kickstarted months of protests in Iran — as well as demonstrations around the globe — against the morality police and head-covering laws.
Surveillance camera footage of Geravand inside the Tehran metro was released by Iranian state-run news agency IRNA and obtained by Reuters. The video, though low quality, shows Geravand accompanied by two female friends walking toward the train from the metro platform.
Upon entering the train, one of the girls is seen immediately backing off and reaching for the ground, before another girl is dragged unconscious from the cabin by passengers.
Footage from inside the train, which could shed light on what made the 16-year-old collapse, has not been released by the government or state-run media.
A separate video of Geravand before she reached the train platform shows her looking at items in a convenience store inside the station. This video more clearly shows the part of her short black hair, revealing she wasn’t wearing a head covering that day.
The head of the Tehran Metro Operating Company, Masoud Dorosti, told IRNA the CCTV footage showed no sign of verbal or physical conflict between passengers or company employees.
IRNA posted an interview with Geravand’s parents in which her father says: “We have checked all the videos and it has been proven for us that this incident was an accident. We request people to pray for our child’s recovery.”
“I think my daughter’s blood pressure dropped, I am not too sure, I think they have said her pressure dropped,” her mother said. She added that there was no point in creating controversy.
Human rights organization Hengaw contends that the interview was recorded under “intense presence and pressure of security forces.” However, Geravand’s mother’s ambiguous statements show “Armita’s parents do not have certainty about the cause of her unconsciousness.”
The group suggests this may have led to Geravand’s mother’s reported arrest, adding that her whereabouts are unknown as of Wednesday evening.
On Tuesday, Hengaw posted a photo allegedly showing Geravand intubated in a hospital bed at the Fajr Air Force Hospital.
Reuters spoke to an anonymous human rights activist in Iran, who said Geravand “is in coma at Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and her condition is critical … her relatives said there is a heavy presence of plain clothes at the hospital.”
A second activist said security forces have forbidden Geravand’s parents from posting her picture on social media or from talking to human rights groups.
An Iranian journalist was briefly arrested on Monday when she went to the hospital to inquire about Geravand’s situation, Iranian media reported.
Hengaw claims that security agents went to the Arwa al-Wathqi Art Academy, where Geravand is a student, and threatened her classmates against posting information about Geravand online.
“Security agents have informed the students that severe consequences will follow any form of information published, including the sharing of Armita’s photographs,” the organization writes.
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