By Alireza Hashemi
The mysterious death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini has grabbed the headlines across the Western media, with wall-to-wall coverage of protests-turned-riots over the past week.
Amini died at a Tehran hospital last Friday, three days after she slipped into a coma while receiving training on the proper rules of wearing a Hijab at the headquarters of ‘morality police’ in Tehran.
Shortly after her death, allegations of mistreatment and even torture surfaced on social media platforms, and Western media outlets lost no time in picking up the story and willfully distorting it.
The narrative goes like this: an Iranian Kurdish girl was arrested by Tehran’s morality police for her attire, which was not appropriate under a strict dress code set by the government. The girl was then beaten while in police custody, causing her tragic death.
However, on digging deep into the matter, this narrative overlooks inconvenient facts about her death.
Preliminary investigations have pointed to her underlying heart condition. Tehran’s police chief described her death as “unfortunate,” rejecting allegations that she was beaten or harmed in any way.
The most robust proof of that is a CCTV footage that shows the young girl walking inside the police office and sitting in the Hijab class along with other women. Then comes the moment she collapses on the floor, seconds after talking to a female police officer about her choice of clothing. It’s all recorded.
Other evidence includes her past medical records as well as a report by Iran’s forensic organization that reveals no sign of injuries on her body.
Her family says she didn’t have pre-existing medical conditions. But Iranian media reports say she had a brain tumor surgery at the age of 8 and had regularly visited neurologists in recent years.
An investigation into the cause of her death, ordered by President Ebrahim Raeisi, is currently underway, and an official report by the forensic organization is also expected within days.
Why did Amini die? Is this really a case of police brutality or just a case of unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances? Until this key question is answered, we can’t jump to conclusions.
But it doesn’t matter to the corporate Western media, which tends to selectively highlight and bury human tragedies in line with the nefarious agenda of Western governments.
It is also not important for Western leaders who have rallied to condemn Iran over the incident, without bothering to ascertain facts. For instance, US President Joe Biden lauded “the brave women of Iran” for “demonstrating to secure their rights.” This amounts to instigating chaos and disorder.
In recent days, the mainstream Western media has been hell-bent on fanning unsubstantiated claims about the case without waiting for the investigations to conclude. They’ve been peddling a false narrative that the government is attempting to push the issue under the rug.
Sample these headlines: CNN said, “Iranians are risking it all to protest. Their families say some of them aren’t coming home.” The Guardian said “Rage Against The Regime: How Iran Erupted after the Death of Mahsa Amini”. France 24 said, “Mahsa Amini’s death is the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for Iran's defiant youth.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The mainstream Western media has deliberately chosen not to highlight mob vandalism and riots by the West-backed rabble-rousers. Take this from Reuters: “Iran denounces US support for 'rioters'.”
The same media toed a different line on the death of George Floyd, a black American who was choked to death by a US police officer for apparently trying to purchase groceries with a counterfeit bill.
In the words of American media watchdog FAIR, “when the protests began after Floyd’s death, corporate media reports were quick to blame BLM for initiating violence, portraying them as senseless rioters in an otherwise peaceful and tranquil society.”
The cases of media’s not-so-secret dalliance with police in the US are so widespread that the term “copaganda” has been coined to describe efforts to portray the police in a positive light and tilt public opinion in their favor.
While the mainstream media has always sought to play down cases of police brutality in the US, it has gone out of its way to blow accusations of police brutality in Iran out of proportion. There they support trigger-happy policemen and here they support rioters and trouble-mongers.
How is this not a case of blatant double standards?
Journalists are trained to be fair and objective, to verify facts without fear or favor. But, once again, the Western media agencies failed to adhere to the sacrosanct values of ethical journalism in Amini’s case.
It has always been the case when it comes to Iran – adopting a lop-sided and partisan approach.
Consider the case of Sahar Khodayari, a mentally-impaired Iranian girl who self-immolated months after being arrested for attacking police forces outside a football stadium in Tehran in September 2019.
The Western corporate media hijacked that case to disseminate anti-Iran propaganda in a similar fashion, as detailed by author Ivan Kesic in an article for the saker blog.
It’s not about Mahsa
Whatever is the cause of Amini’s unfortunate death, Iranian people have the right to know the facts. And the authorities are duty-bound to provide answers to their questions.
Some would argue that the police officers should not have detained Amini in the first place. But it has nothing to do with the anti-Iran chorus that has filled both the online and offline spheres. The tragedy has been hijacked by those who have scores to settle with the Islamic Republic.
The Western “news agencies” would do well to start practicing objective and professional journalism, instead of exploiting human tragedies to advance duplicitous Western political agendas.
(Alireza Hashemi is an Iranian political journalist with several years of experience working for Iran's English and Persian-Language media. He tweets: @AlirezaHash3mi)
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)
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