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Protest planned in Bellevue over death of Mahsa Amini in Iran

The protest comes after the death of a woman who'd been detained over accusations she violated the country’s dress code by wearing her Islamic headgear too loosely.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Iranian activists in western Washington are planning to protest in Bellevue this weekend after the death of a woman who'd been detained over an accusation she violated the country’s dress code by wearing her Islamic headgear too loosely.

Iranian authorities, known as the morality police, detained 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last week and said she did not properly cover her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. Amini collapsed at a police station and died three days later.

Police said she died of a heart attack and deny she was mistreated. The government released video footage purporting to show the moment she collapsed. Her family said she had no history of heart trouble. Her death in police custody has triggered daring displays of defiance from protesters, in the face of beatings and possible arrest.

In Iran and around the world, images show women protesting the wearing of head scarves. 

"I'm here without any hijab," said Iranian activist Homeira Bakhtiary. "I should be killed because I don't have a hijab?"

Bakhtiary moved from Iran to the United States in the early 2000s.

Bakhtiary is speaking out knowing people in her country have largely lost access to the internet, restricted by the government.

"I hope that for once we see them as humans and not as political pawns," said Ms. Amini, also an Iranian activist.

Amini returned home to Washington Thursday after protesting the Iranian president's visit to New York.

"We were protesting his presence at the United Nations and being on the Women's Rights Commission for Iran because they don't deserve a seat," Amini said.

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Amini and Bakhtiary share different views about the political future of their home country, but they both said they need to speak out about a human rights issue.

"I wish I could go back to Iran and fight with them, but unfortunately as an activist, if I go back I would get captured and killed," Bakhtiary said.

"Interviewing with you right now gives me a strong platform for people that are fighting inside Iran," Amini said. "So I hope our elected officials hear up and do something about it."

With the internet cut off in the country, people are calling on countries like the United States to help provide satellite internet to people in Iran, allowing them to share what is happening.

Groups are also calling on the U.S. to stop negotiating with the Iranian government over nuclear programs.

The U.S. government on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and leaders of other government agencies.

The sanctions come after at least nine protesters have been killed in clashes with Iranian security forces since violence erupted.

Iranian activists plan to gather Sunday at 2 p.m. near NE 8th Street and 112th Avenue.

There is a separate protest that will also be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Bellevue Way NE and NE 4th Street.

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