LONDON -- A 16-year-old girl's alleged assault at the hands of Iran's "morality police" is renewing criticism of the regime more than one year after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini sparked nationwide protests.
Armita Geravand, a student, was hospitalized in Tehran after an alleged encounter with police officers in a metro station southeast of the city on Sunday, journalists and human rights observers said.
Geravand is now in a coma, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported Tuesday.
Islamic Republic officials deny there was an encounter between police and Geravand, claiming the girl fainted "due to low blood pressure."
The news of Geravand's hospitalization began spreading Sunday when London-based Iranian journalist Farzad Seifikaran wrote on X that the teen and her friends were stopped by police for allegedly not wearing headscarves. Seifikaran claims police pushed the girl down, she hit her head and fell unconscious.
A statement from Tehran's metro authority denied a physical assault had happened. CCTV footage released by the agency, which appeared to be edited, shows a group of teenage girls stepping onto a train car without wearing headscarves. One of the girls is then taken out of the car appearing to be unconscious. After a jump cut in the footage, emergency first responders arrive and take the unconscious girl away.
On Monday, Maryam Lotfi, a journalist with Iranian newspaper Shargh Daily was reportedly arrested by security guards after she went to the hospital where Geravand is being treated, the newspaper reported. Shargh Daily later reported that Lotfi was freed that night. There is heavy security at the hospital, the news outlet reported.
The incident comes over a year after the 22-year-old Amini was arrested by the morality police for allegedly not fully complying with the obligatory hijab rules. During her detainment, Amini mysteriously fell into a coma and then died in the hospital.
Her tragic death triggered bloody nationwide protests which swept over the country for months. Tens of thousands were arrested and over 500 people were killed in the protests as Iran Human Rights group reported in April. Protests against the regime also erupted in Paris, Istanbul and other cities around the world.
At least seven Iranian men who allegedly participated in the protests have been executed by the regime. Many women in the country continue their civil disobedience by not wearing obligatory headscarves in public spaces.
Some on social media expressed concern that the 16-year-old might be another Mahsa Amini.
"The story they [the regime] has made up for Armita Geravand is completely similar to the story of Mahsa Jina Amini. 'Her pressure dropped and her head hit somewhere, and she is still in a coma,'" activist Soran Mansournia wrote on his X account quoting the regime's defense. Mansournia's brother was killed four years ago after participating in another round of nationwide protests at the time.
The Islamic Republic News Agency published an interview on Tuesday with a couple identified by the news agency as Geravand's parents.
"As they say, her blood pressure has dropped," her mother says.
Many observers claim the video is a "forced confession" by the parents. No video from inside the train car or from the doorway where Geravand enters the train has been released yet.