Protesters across Iran continued to clash violently with security forces early Friday following the death of a young woman in police custody. Iranian state television said the death toll from the unrest could reach 26, without giving details.
While the scale of the protests in the two dozen Iranian cities and towns remains unclear, the movement, which followed the death of Mahsa Amin last week after she was arrested by the country’s morality police, represents the biggest unrest since 2019, when rights groups reported. hundreds of people died in the violent crackdown.
Iran has also disrupted Internet access to the outside world and tightened restrictions on popular platforms used to organize protests, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, according to Internet traffic tracker Netblocks.
The U.S. Treasury Department issued guidelines on Friday expanding the range of Internet services available to Iranians despite U.S. sanctions against the country. Officials say the move would help Iranians gain access to tools that can be used to circumvent state surveillance and censorship, but would not completely prevent Tehran from using communications tools to stifle dissent.
26 people are said to have died
A state television anchor said late Thursday that 26 protesters and police officers had been killed since protests broke out last Saturday following the funeral of 22-year-old Amin, but did not specify how authorities arrived at that number. Official statistics will be released later, he said, but in past clashes the Iranian government has not provided official death tolls.
At least 11 people were killed in the unrest, The Associated Press reported, based on reports from state and semi-official media. Most recently, Qazvin’s deputy governor, Abolhasan Kabiri, said a civilian and a paramilitary officer were killed in the riots that rocked the two towns in the northwestern province.
The unfolding crisis in Iran began with a public outcry over the death of Amin, a young woman from a northwestern Kurdish town who was arrested by the country’s morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly violating a strictly enforced dress code.
Police say he died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but his family has questioned that.
Amin’s death has drawn sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations and has touched a national nerve.
Hundreds of Iranians in at least 13 cities, from the capital Tehran to Amin’s northwestern Kurdish hometown of Saqez, have taken to the streets to express pent-up anger at social and political repression. Authorities have claimed that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment the unrest.
“The death has fueled broader anti-government sentiment in the Islamic Republic, and women’s frustration in particular,” political risk firm Eurasia Group wrote, noting that Iranian hardliners have intensified a crackdown on women’s clothing over the past year since former chief justice Ebrahim Raisi. the president.
“A cold plan by Iran’s leaders … calls for a more forceful response to quell the unrest.”
Thousands of people around the world are protesting in solidarity with upset Iranians over Amin’s death, including in cities across Canada. Demonstrators also marched in London and Berlin.
Violent demonstrations and counter-protest in Iran
Videos published on social media show people setting fire to a police car in Tehran and confronting officers at close range. Elsewhere in the capital, videos show gunfire as protesters shout from riot police: “They’re shooting at people! Oh my God, they’re killing people!”
In the northwestern city of Neyshabur, protesters cheered at an overturned police car. Footage from Tehran and Mashhad shows women waving their mandatory hijab head coverings in the air like flags, chanting: “Freedom!”
The scenes of women cutting their hair and burning hijabs are part of a wider political debate over the role of religious strictures in the modern republic, issues that have plagued the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.
But the protests have also grown into a public challenge to the government. The chants have been scathing, with some calling for the overthrow of the ruling clergy. Protesters chant: “Death to the dictator!” and “The soils must go!”
In a sign of the challenge the protest movement posed to the government, hardline groups staged a counter-demonstration in Tehran on Friday.
Thousands of women in traditional black chadors and men dressed in the Basij style of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard took to the streets after Friday prayers to vent their anger over the unrest, state news agency IRNA reported.
“Death to America!”, “Death to Israel!” and “America’s mercenaries are at war with religion!” they chanted.
Iran’s intelligence ministry warned citizens against joining “illegal” street rallies on Friday, threatening prosecution. Local officials have reported the arrest of dozens of protesters.
Hasan Hosseinpour, deputy police chief of northern Gilan province, said 211 people had been arrested on Friday. The government of western Hamadan province said 58 protesters were arrested.
Tehran University said it will move classes online next week due to the unrest, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
London-based watchdog Amnesty International has accused security forces of beating protesters with batons and firing metal pellets at close range. The video shows police and paramilitaries using live fire, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests.
Iran has struggled in the recent past with waves of protests, mainly due to a prolonged economic crisis exacerbated by American sanctions over its nuclear program.
In November 2019, the country saw its deadliest violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution when protests erupted over state-controlled gasoline price hikes.
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Current23:46Protests over the death of Mahsa Amin, who was detained by Iran’s moral police