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Family frantically searched for Iranian woman after arrest

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SULIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) — When Mahsa Amini was detained in the Iranian capital for wearing her veil too loosely, her household sprang into motion, calling kin, pals, contacts — anybody who may assist.

One of her cousins, Irfan Mortezai, residing in neighboring Iraq, bought the message from her distraught brother.

“She’s been arrested by the morality police,” the brother wrote to him from the household’s hometown of Saqqez in primarily Kurdish western Iran.

Mortezai hadn’t seen his cousin, who he refers to as Zhina, her Kurdish identify, in years. Not since he fled his residence nation in 2020 to affix Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in Iraq’s northern Sulaymaniyah province. But he knew how vital it was to attempt to attain her — he had been arrested in Iran and was in jail there two years earlier than leaving the nation.

He joined different members of the family in calling kin and pals in Tehran in efforts to attempt to discover a method to see her in custody throughout these fateful hours.

“We tried by every means to reach her but the Iranian authorities did not let us,” he advised The Associated Press on Thursday. “I couldn’t reach her.”

Just a few days later, on Sept. 16, phrase got here that the 22-year-old Amini was useless.

What occurred subsequent surprised Mortezai and the remainder of the household: Her dying sparked large-scale protests across Iran which have captured the world consideration.

Women protesters in Iran and across the world would make a show of taking off their headscarves and slicing their hair in solidarity with Amini.

Mortezai mentioned the household is mendacity low amid the protests, cautious of Iranian safety brokers, however that they’re proud Amini has turn into “a symbol for standing up against injustice and oppression.”

The household has mentioned a witness advised them that Amini was overwhelmed whereas in custody and has blamed authorities for her dying. Police mentioned she had a coronary heart assault and fell on the ground of the station and died after being in a coma for two days.

Iranian state TV has steered that at the very least 41 protesters and police have been killed within the ensuing unrest. An AP rely of official statements by authorities tallied at the very least 13 useless, with greater than 1,400 demonstrators arrested.

Mortezai mentioned he was shocked when the message got here to him that his cousin was useless. “I was full of anger, I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted revenge.”

The 34-year-old Mortezai is a member of Komala, one in every of a number of Kurdish opposition events primarily based in Sulimaniyah.

While his department of the household is linked to opposition teams, Amini’s facet just isn’t, he mentioned.

“She was not political, her father is a normal government employee, and her mother is a housewife, they stayed away from (political) parties,” he mentioned.

The final time he noticed Mahsa was at a household gathering at his aunt’s residence within the metropolis of Saqqez, earlier than his departure from Iran. They spoke on the telephone not lengthy after that. More just lately, he had heard from her household that she had been accepted to a college to review legislation.

“She was beautiful, always smiling,” he mentioned. “Full of life.”

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