Clashes in Mahabad, Iran, Following the Controversial Death of a Female Hotel Worker

A portrait painting of Farinaz.

A portrait painting of Farinaz Khosrawani, a Kurdish hotel worker who's suspicious death has caused unrest throughout Iran. Photo from the @alebabiri Twitter account.

Warning: Post contains disturbing images and footage.

Violent clashes erupted in the Iranian city of Mahabad between police and Kurdish protesters who set a hotel on fire on Thursday in a protest against the mysterious death of a female Kurdish hotel worker. Mahabad is an ethnically Kurdish Iranian city, located 200 kilometres from the border with Iraq's Kurdistan region.

Police used tear gas to disperse the angry crowd from the area in front of the hotel.

Farinaz Khosrawani, 26, was working at Tara hotel when she fell to her death from the fourth floor earlier this week.

Speculation surrounding the circumstances of her death has emerged from different sources and officials, leaving protesters even angrier. One version prominent among the protesters is that the woman jumped out of the window to escape an attempted rape.

Videos were posted of the hotel burning:

According to Rudaw News Website, locals suspect that the chief protagonist in Khosrawani's death was an Iranian army officer allegedly working in collaboration with the hotel's owner.

Another recent post on Rudaw states that authorities have arrested a man in connection with the incident, who has confessed to being with her before she fell out of the window.

But the article also presented many other contradictory statements surrounding Khosrawani's death.

The pro-government website quotes Iran’s deputy police chief Saeed Montazer Almahdi saying the woman was trying to jump from one balcony to another after she had “learned that her family and hotel manager had found out about her work,” but lost control and fell.

His statement, which implies Khosrawani was a prostitute, is available on YouTube with Arabic subtitles. The government news also claims that hashtags related to this event originate from regional rival Saudi Arabia, suggesting the unrest is part of a Saudi-backed revolt.

But Rudaw also cited a quote from BBC Persian who had spoken to the deputy governor of Iran's Western Azerbaijan province, Alireza Radfar, saying that Khosrawani and the suspect were in a romantic relationship. He says that she jumped to her death after the hotel manager informed her mother of the relationship.

Abullah Muhtadi, secretary general of the Kurdish Komala party, echoes protesters’ allegations and told Rudaw that Khosrawani was an accountant at the hotel and did not know the man:

It is said there were signs of a fight between the two and her clothes were torn and there were bruises on her body

While there are no confirmed reports regarding the death of Khosrawani, that did not stop protesters from taking to the streets to voice their disapproval and express no confidence in the authorities.

Several people were arrested and more than 25 people were injured in the clashes, leaving one in a critical condition. Angry protesters are tweeting #JusticeForFarinaz :

In a reference to Reyhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian citizen, who was executed for killing her attempted rapist, Maha wrote:

Others showed solidarity with the people of Mahabad:

This video, from May 9 shows police trying to run over protesters in the streets of Mahabad:

The news about Khosrawani's death spread quickly, triggering more protests in neighboring areas like the city of Sardasht.

Kurds in other parts of the world like Berlin and London also gathered to call attention to the death of Farinaz. Mahabad's mayor Jaafar Katani asked the people to remain calm and wait for the results of government investigation to confirm the reasons behind the woman's death. Khosrawani's family also announced they will await results from authorities.

Most recently, a rally was held in protest against the events in Mahabad on Sunday afternoon in front of the parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan.

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