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Man Arrested In Iran After Woman's Death Sparks Violence In Kurdish City

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Tensions have been high in the mainly ethnic-Kurdish town of Mahabad in Iran after the suspicious death of a chambermaid sparked an outbreak of violence on the city's streets.

A day after riots were reported over the unexplained demise of a young chambermaid in Mahabad, the capital of Iran's West Azerbaijan province, local authorities announced that an individual has been detained over the death, which happened earlier this week.

Mahabad's prosecutor, Aslan Heydari, made the announcement in a May 8 interview with Iran's government news agency IRNA, while adding that an investigation into the "suspicious" death of the woman is being conducted "very carefully."

The woman, 25-year-old Farinaz Khosravani, died on May 3 after a fall from the fourth floor of the city's four-star Hotel Tara where she worked, reports said. The news website, based in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan, reported that protesters suspected foul play in her death. Mahabad with its majority Kurdish population had, in the past, been the scene of tensions and clashes between security forces and ethnic Kurds.

Protesters set Hotel Tara on fire
Read related coverage by Iranian Ghanoon daily: Part 1, Part 2

Some gathered in front of the Hotel Tara to express their anger amid unconfirmed rumors that Khosravani was trying to escape being raped by an Iranian security official when she either fell or committed suicide.

However, Alireza Radfar, the deputy governor of West Azerbaijan for political, security and social affairs, was quoted by Iranian state media as saying that the "likely accused" has nothing to do with security bodies and that he was in Mahabad as a private-sector consultant who was meant to be helping to raise standards at the hotel.

Radfar accused opposition and "antirevolutionary" groups and media of spreading lies in connection with the incident to "incite" the youth in the city.

He said the Hotel Tara was set on fire by protesters and that 25 people, including seven police officers, were injured in the May 7 violence.

Pictures and videos shared on social media showed protesters with raised fists, some with bloody faces, while black smoke and flames were seen coming out of the hotel building.


In some of the images, more than a dozen security officers in uniform seem to be standing near the hotel.

Reports suggested that tensions were still high in Mahabad a day after the violence and that security forces in the region remained on alert.

WATCH: Rioting In Mahabad reported that an unknown number of people had been arrested in connection with the riots that shook the provincial capital, which has an estimated population of 280,000 people.

Deputy West Azerbaijan's Governor Radfar, however, claimed that only five people had been arrested. He said most of those detained were quickly released after receiving warnings.

Copyright (c) 2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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