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A 16-Year-Old Iranian Girl Has Died After an Alleged Encounter With Morality Police 

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Updated: | Originally published:

A 16-year-old who made headlines in early October, after she entered a subway car in Iran with her hair uncovered, only to be removed from the car unconscious a short while later, has died, per reports from state media.

Armita Geravand, who collapsed in Tehran on Oct. 1, has spent the past few weeks in a coma, with doctors monitoring her condition. In a post shared on X (formerly Twitter) New York's Center for Human Rights in Iran commented: "We are profoundly saddened to report the passing of 16-year-old Armita Geravand, after she slipped into a coma following a reported assault by forced-hijab enforcers in the Tehran metro."

"Armita's untimely death has left numerous unanswered questions in its wake. According to eyewitness accounts reported in the media, she was attacked by enforcers of the state's mandatory hijab law. Notably, moments before the incident, Armita was observed without a hijab."

Authorities have continued to deny the allegations against them, saying that Geravand fainted after her blood pressure dropped because she skipped breakfast, the New York Times reported.

Geravand's death comes just over a year after that of Masha Amini—a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran in September 2022, after she was arrested by the morality police for allegedly not following the country's strict hijab laws. Her death sparked protests worldwide, and triggered a national uprising that became Iran’s longest protest since the late ‘70s.

Security camera footage shared by Iran’s state television in early October shows Geravand walking into a subway car in Tehran. Footage of what happened while Geravand was on the train has not been released. An Iranian Kurdish rights group, Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, has claimed that the country’s morality police officers physically assaulted Geravand for allegedly not abiding by the country’s dress code.

Here’s what you need to know.

What happened to Armita Geravand?

Video footage of the incident shows a young girl with short black hair entering a train around 7 a.m on Sunday, Oct. 1, though not much else is known about the sequence of events that followed.

Journalist Farzad Seifikaran, who first reported on this story, interviewed Geravand's relatives who alleged that the teen was with two friends on the train—who also had their hair exposed—when they got into an argument with officers over covering their hair. They claimed that one of the officials then pushed Geravand, who fell and hit her head against a metal object, according to the New York Times.

The state news outlet IRNA released footage of an interview with Geravand's parents on Oct. 3, reiterating the official version of the incident. “My daughter, I think her blood pressure, I don’t know what, I think, they say that her blood pressure dropped then she fell down and her head hit the edge of the metro,” said Shahin Ahmadi, the teen girl's mother. She said her daughter was on her way to school on the Shahada Metro when the incident occurred.

During the interview, Geravand's father said that his daughter was healthy and was not on any medication. Both of the young girl’s parents reiterated that the events that transpired were an accident, and asked people to pray for their child’s recovery, per the IRNA.

But many Iranians are skeptical of official accounts. A press release by the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights alleged that Geravand's mother was later detained by Iranian officials. The organization added that the interview released by IRNA with Geravand's parents was completed under “the intense presence and pressure of security forces.”

The New York Times reported that Geravand's room was being guarded at the hospital by security agents. A journalist for the newspaper Shargh was arrested and detained after she interviewed Ahmadi on Sunday, according to the paper’s editors.

Many activists have called out the alleged security measures and silencing of journalists. “Transparency means all the security agents leave Fajr Air Force Hospital and surrounding areas and journalists be allowed to report on what happened to the 16-year-old girl,” Mohsen Borhani, a lawyer in Tehran, posted on social media on Oct. 3. “According to the laws of the country, preparing news about such an incident is not a crime.”

What’s been happening in the country?

The past year has seen serious attacks against Iranian women. In March, more than 100 people were arrested for helping poison thousands of school girls across the country. Toxic gas attacks at schools, and especially girls schools, had been occurring since at least November 2022, and impacted numerous cities. The exact cause of the attacks remains unknown. Some say it was done by hyper-religious groups that are against the education of young girls while others say that the gas poisonings were meant to target young girls who took part in protests over Amini’s death.

Current government rules in Iran mandate women to wear a hijab, but many have refused to do so daily in an act of defiance. The act is dangerous in a country that has warned women that they can use facial recognition technology to charge them for their crimes later.

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Write to Olivia-Anne Cleary at olivia-anne.cleary@time.com