Anguish and outrage are rippling across Iran at news of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was hospitalized in a coma two hours after being abducted off the streets of Tehran by the so-called “morality patrol”.
The young woman from Saqqez was on holiday with her family when the van pulled up beside her and her brother Kiarash, shortly past 6pm on Tuesday night. By all accounts she was in good health at the time. Hours later, she was braindead.
What happened between the moment Mahsa was pulled away from her brother and taken for “re-education” at a police station in Vozara Avenue, and when she was rushed from that place to Kasra Hospital, remains an unknown quantity. Below is what IranWire understands to have happened so far, based on information provided by multiple sources.
“Code 99, tell Kasra”. This was the message related by a Tehran Emergency Services paramedic on the radio at 7.25pm on Tuesday, September 13. “Code 99” is the code used by doctors and medical staff in Iran to indicate a patient is near death.
The instruction came when Mahsa was already on the way to hospital. On the first official form produced on arrival, doctors wrote: “In Vozara, Ms. Mahsa Amini had a sudden cardiac arrest, and the paramedic gave her CPR.”
One of the other young women “arrested” by the patrol that night, who asked to be named as Sadaf, told IranWire: “I wasn’t in the same van as Mahsa. But we were together in Vozara, and I was there the moment she fell.
“They took away our mobile phones and said all of us were to sit on one side [of the room]. Right after I sat down, I saw one of us fall to the ground and hit her head on the chair. A woman belonging to the morality patrol was standing over her.
“She had repeatedly told everybody to sit down, and now she was just standing there. ‘What’s going on? Why are you crying?’ she’d been saying over and over in a severe tone to some of the women who were in tears. But when Mahsa fell she paid no attention to her. One of the girls who was close to Mahsa went over and took her in her arms.”
The group tried to revive Mahsa by lifting her, splashing water on her face and calling to her, but she was unresponsive. The first professional medic, Sadaf said, arrived very quickly. “It seemed like they had their own paramedics there – I don’t know – because in less than two minutes one of them was examining Mahsa.”
“Everybody was screaming and crying. The girl who was holding Mahsa in her arms said: ‘Be quiet. Her blood pressure has dropped. It’s nothing.’ At that moment the paramedic was injecting something into Mahsa’s arm. But suddenly he laid her out on the floor and started giving her CPR. I looked at Mahsa’s face. You could only see whites of her eyes. We were all horrified. We screamed, and shouted: ‘You murderers! You killed her!’”
The Official Line
A source at Tehran Emergency Services told IranWire that one of their paramedics had “just happened to be there” at the time. Shortly before Mahsa fell, they said, a medic had been dispatched by motorcycle to Vozara to attend to a different patient: a man suffering shortness of breath. They arrived just as the incident was unfolding in the “re-education” room.
They were told, the source said, that Mahsa had suffered “a cardiac arrest”. “The paramedic did not attend to the previous patient and went to see her instead.”
A decision was taken on the spot to take Mahsa to hospital. “Under normal conditions, and in cases when the patient is in a stable condition, emergency services must take the patient to a government or university hospital. But when they’re in a critical condition they have to be taken to the nearest medical center. That’s why Kasra Hospital was chosen.”
The Scene at the Detention Center
During Mahsa’s CPR, Sadaf said, “One of the agents shouted ‘Everybody out!’. Everybody rushed toward the agent who was holding our phones. We took them and went out into the courtyard. But then somebody told the soldiers not to open the doors, and they moved us back inside. Then we saw they’d brought a stretcher and were taking Mahsa away.”
Before the women were allowed to leave, Sadaf said, their phones were checked to ensure nobody had taken a photo or video of the incident. “They were so preoccupied with pictures and videos that they forgot we had asked our families to bring us clothes. They’d taken delivery of the clothes but had not given them to us. When I left the building my dad asked, ‘Where’s the stuff I brought you to wear?’”
Agents at the station refused to allow the women back inside themselves to collect their belongings. After a long exchange they eventually went inside and brought them back out to them. When they went back outside, a strange smell was in the air.
“First we thought there’d been a fire somewhere,” Sadaf said. “We smelled smoke. Then we realized that while we were screaming, our families had been banging on the doors, and they’d teargassed them.”
Sadaf added that while she was at Vozara at least, she did not see anyone subjected to physical violence. “They humiliated and insulted us but they didn’t beat anyone. When she fell down her head hit the chair but I didn’t see any blood.”
In the paramedic’s report about Mahsa, there is no mention of bleeding, injuries or discoloration to her body. The Tehran Emergency Service source said: “The paramedic must report bleeding, discoloration or injuries. In this report there is no mention of these.”
A Stroke or a Fracture?
“Mahsa’s face was swollen and her legs are bruised,” Mahsa’s brother Kiarash had told IranWire on September 14. A photo of her in hospital published on September 15 shows her on the bed, intubated for breathing. An enlarged version of this picture shows blood and discoloration around her ear.
IranWire spoke to three doctors about this. All three were emphatic that a “stroke”, which is what doctors at Kasra Hospital told the family she had suffered, could not cause this level of discoloring or external bleeding by itself. It indicates instead that Mahsa was struck to the head.
“This picture suggests a scalp base fracture,” one of the three told IranWire. “It manifests as ecchymosis [blood collecting under the skin] around both eyes, called ‘raccoon eyes’, or on one or both ears. This results from a severe trauma, like an accident or falling from a height.”
The symptoms of a scalp base fracture can take hours to show themselves. This trauma might have been suffered after she fell, but it could also have been caused by an earlier strike. To date IranWire has not been able to locate any of the women who were in the same van as Mahsa to ask what happened on the way to their detention.