Iran president’s wife denies UN findings that protesters were killed in turmoil after Mahsa Amini’s death

(TEHRAN) — In a new interview, the wife of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi repeated claims by her country’s officials that the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last fall was the result of a preexisting illness — which Amini’s family vigorously disputes, believing instead that she was beaten in custody after being arrested by Iran’s notorious morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.

Speaking with ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz in an interview that aired Sunday, Jamileh Alamolhoda defended Iran’s approach to requiring headscarves for women in public while seeking to minimize the crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death.

“She was loved by all of us. I’m a mother myself, and I do understand that — the value of girls and women as a whole,” Alamolhoda said.

She also claimed that she was in “constant contact” with “all of the medical personnel” involved in Amini’s case.

Since last year, massive protests of thousands have roiled Iran in what some international observers believe mark the biggest threat to the government’s authority since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Those demonstrations have also been met with a sharp response.

According to the U.N., some 500 people, including 71 children, have been killed by Iranian security forces and police. But Alamolhoda disputed those figures, telling Raddatz the protests were “a big lie” while blaming the uprising on the U.S.

“I do think things can happen of that nature in any country, naturally,” she said. “However, in our country, they are turned into political projects and those are fundamentally because of the intentions of foreign governments whom are keen to see other events occur in Iran.”

“So no one was killed?” Raddatz pressed. “No one was executed because of those protests? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Many were killed, but in defending the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Alamolhoda said.

Alamolhoda is the most public-facing wife of an Iranian president since the revolution five decades ago that brought about Iran’s modern government. She comes from an ultra-conservative family, has two daughters with her husband and holds a PhD.

Raddatz pressed Alamolhoda on her opinion of a law passed last week by Iran’s parliament that imposes harsher punishments on women who violate the country’s hijab laws. Under the new legislation, violators face up to 10 years in prison.

Alamolhoda did not directly answer the question initially, only comparing the law to “dress codes everywhere.”

“You have dress codes everywhere, even here in university environments, in schools and everywhere else,” Alamolhoda said. “And I need to tell you that hijab was a tradition, was a religiously mandated tradition, accepted widely. And now for years it has been turned into a law. And breaking of the law, trampling upon any laws, just like in any country, comes with its own set of punishments.”

Raddatz followed up.

“There are women who believe it is repressive. While they respect those who choose to wear the hijab, they don’t want to be forced to wear the hijab. What do you think the punishment should be?” she asked.

“I do not specialize in law,” the president’s wife responded. “So I cannot … answer you on a professional level. But punishments are equally dispensed to any breaking of the law throughout many countries.”

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