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A Young Woman's Death Sparked Riots in a Kurdish City in Iran

Hundreds of ethnic Kurds clashed with police and set fire to a hotel after a 25-year-old woman allegedly jumped from the building to avoid being raped.
Imagen vía Hîwa Dîlan/YouTube

Hundreds of ethnic Kurds clashed with police and set fire to a hotel in the city of Mahabad in northwestern Iran on Thursday. The riot followed the death of 25-year-old Farinaz Khosrawani, who died on Monday after plummeting from the fourth floor of the Tara Hotel, where she worked as a chambermaid.

Local protesters allege that the incident involved foul play, and that Khosrawani jumped from the building to avoid being raped, according to Rudaw, a news site based in the neighboring Kurdish region of Iraq.


Video emerged showing the four-star Tara Hotel engulfed in flames. Alireza Radfar, the deputy governor of West Azerbaijan for political, security, and social affairs, told Iranian state media that the protesters set the building on fire.

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The circumstances surrounding Khosrawani's death remain suspicious. Residents of Mahabad allege that a member of Iran's intelligence and security agency threatened to rape her. According to reports from the New York Times, residents were outraged that Khosrawani may have died in an attempt to escape rape.

In an attempt to disband protesters, police used tear gas, batons, and possibly live ammunition, according to Amnesty International.

Dozens of Kurdish protesters from the city of 280,000 were injured during clashes with police forces. According to Amnesty, seven police officers were among those injured.

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While residents claim the suspect was affiliated with Iran's security apparatus, a police chief in Mahabad denied that was the case, Al Jazeera reported. The incident is still under investigation, and police reportedly have a security guard in custody. The arrest didn't stop the protestors on Thursday night; they continued to riot, demanding the suspect be prosecuted. Ministry of Intelligence officials arrested at least 20 people, activists told Amnesty International. However, Radfar said that many who were initially detained were quickly released and that only five people were actually arrested.

According to Radio Free Europe, tensions are still lingering in the city and security forces in the region are keeping a close watch.

Kurdish activists have taken to social media to express their views, urging people to protest against the Iranian government and show solidarity for Khosrawani. People peacefully protested Friday in Sulaimani, a nearby city in Iraq's Kurdistan region. In a press release, Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa, urged Iranian police to resist using excessive force on protestors.

"After last night's violence, tensions are running high in Mahabad and other Kurdish-majority towns and cities. Law enforcement officials have the right to defend themselves and a duty to protect the safety of the public, but they must comply with international standards governing the use of force in their policing of any further protests," Boumedouha said.