At least 17 people have been killed in anti-government protests in Iran

Iran’s state media acknowledged on Thursday that at least 17 people have been killed in anti-government protests across the country. The unrest was sparked by the death of a woman who was detained by the country’s so-called morality police, apparently for not covering her hair as required by Iran’s strict Islamic law.

A charity based in Iran put the death toll at 31, but CBS News was unable to verify that number.

Morality police, specifically tasked with enforcing Iran’s strict Islamic dress code and other religious orders, arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amin last week while her family was visiting the capital, Tehran.

Mahsa Amin

Iranian Center for Human Rights

The special unit accused him of wearing “inappropriate clothing”. He died in custody three days later, officials say, of a heart attack. Critics believe he was beaten after a picture surfaced of his bruised, bloodied and intubated body.

“Iranian women under a law enacted in 1981 after [Islamic] revolution, have to cover their hair and dress modestly,” Dr. Sanam Vakil, an expert on Middle East politics and an Iran specialist at London’s Chatham House think tank, told CBS News. “Over the last 40 years, Iranian women have pushed. Back against this mandatory veiling requirement and there is a morality police patrolling the streets, bringing women in and punishing them.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Thursday that Amin’s death would be thoroughly investigated, AFP reported.

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and other government officials on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. According to the AP, the targets of the sanctions were the leaders of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the army’s ground forces, the Basij resistance force and other law enforcement agencies.

Amin’s death has sparked Iran’s biggest mass protests since at least 2019, when public anger over soaring gas prices drew huge crowds to the streets.

Protests continue in Iran
People hold a demonstration in Tehran, Iran on September 21, 2022 to protest the death of a 22-year-old woman in moral police custody.

Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty

These new protests have spread from Iran’s Kurdistan region, where Amini lived, to at least 50 cities and towns across the country, according to Human Rights Watch and other opposition groups operating in Iran.

Kurdistan’s governor, Ismail Zareikosha, said earlier this week that three people had been killed in his province, but insisted that Iran’s security forces were not responsible, blaming “enemies of Iran”.

Internet access in some countries was disrupted on Thursday, a day after Iran’s Communications Minister Issa Zarepour warned that such a move could be taken during the protests.

“Because of the security issues and the current debates in the country, Internet restrictions may be decided and implemented by the security apparatus, but overall we have not had a reduction in bandwidth,” Zarepour said. ISNA news agency.

Iran is facing global criticism over the death of a woman in police custody


Opposition broadcaster Manoto TV claimed that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, removed a large number of protest-related videos from its Instagram page. The company also said Instagram had removed a video message from Iran’s exiled former crown prince Reza Pahlavi that addressed the protesters.

During the 2019 protests, before attacks by government security forces, internet access was also slowed or interrupted. As of Thursday, videos and images of defiance and protest were still being uploaded to social media, showing people destroying symbols of government authority, including police cars and water cannon trucks, and defacing pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.

Some women have protested by removing their headscarves in public and burning them on bonfires. Others have cut their hair in public, in front of cheering crowds.

“It shows the level of public anger. People are just fed up and going for it,” Vakil told CBS News from Chatham House. “This is a generation of Iranians pushing back.”