Protesters across Iran continued to clash violently with security forces early Friday following the death of a young woman in police custody. Iranian state TV suggested the death toll from the violence could reach 26, without giving details.
Although the level of protests in Iranian cities and towns is still unclear, this movement, in response to the death of Mahsa Amini last week after being arrested by the moral police in that country, represents the biggest unrest since 2019, when rights groups say. hundreds of people were killed in the campaign of violence.
Iran has also disrupted internet access to foreign countries, according to internet traffic monitor Netblocks, and tightened restrictions on popular platforms used to organize gatherings such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
The US Treasury Department on Friday issued a directive to expand the range of internet services available to Iranians despite US sanctions on the country. Officials said the move would help Iranians get tools to avoid state surveillance and censorship, but would not completely stop Tehran from using communication tools to prevent tensions.
It is reported that 26 people died
A broadcaster on state television said on Thursday night that 26 protesters and police have been killed since protests broke out last Saturday after the funeral of Amini, 22, without elaborating on how the authorities arrived at that number. He said official figures would be released later, but in previous periods of unrest the Iranian government had not released official death tolls.
The unrest has killed at least 11 people according to an Associated Press count, based on statements from state and private media. Recently, the Deputy Governor of Qazvin, Abolhasan Kabiri, said that a citizen and a military officer were killed in the riots that hit two cities in the northwestern province.
The crisis in Iran began with the revelation of the death of Amini, a young woman from a northwestern Kurdish village who was arrested by the country’s morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly violating its strictly enforced dress code.
Police say he died of a heart attack and was not treated badly, but his family doubts that.
Amini’s death drew widespread criticism from the West and the United Nations, affecting the entire country.
Hundreds of Iranians in at least 13 cities from the capital, Tehran, to the northwestern Kurdish city of Amini, Saqez, took to the streets, expressing deep anger over social and political repression. Authorities say foreign countries and unspecified opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.
“Death has entered the opposition to the government in the Islamic Republic and especially the frustration of women,” wrote the political risk firm Eurasia Group, noting that Iranian extremists have stepped up their campaign to raid women’s clothing in the past year since former chief justice Ebrahim Raisi became. the president.
“To the cold calculation of Iran’s leaders … a strong response is needed to end the unrest.”
Thousands of people around the world are protesting in solidarity with Iranians outraged by Amini’s death, including in Canadian cities. Protesters also marched in London and Berlin.
Violent protests and counter-protests in Iran
Videos on social media showed protesters in Tehran burning a police car and confronting police at close quarters. Elsewhere in the capital, videos showed gunfire as protesters ran away from riot police shouting, “They’re shooting people! Oh my God, they’re killing people!”
In the northwest of the city of Neyshabur, protesters cheered on an overturned police car. Videos from Tehran and Mashhad show women waving their mandatory hijab veils in the air like flags while chanting, “Freedom!”
The scenes of women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs have sparked a political debate about the role of strict religious laws in the modern republic – questions that have plagued the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.
But the protests have grown into an open challenge to the government. These songs were intense, some say that the ruling pastors belong to you. Protesters cry, “Death to the dictator!” and “The Mullahs must be gone!”
As a sign of the test the protest movement brought to the government, hardline groups organized a demonstration in Tehran on Friday.
Thousands of women dressed in traditional black clothing and men dressed in the style of the Basij, a volunteer force under the Revolutionary Guard, poured into the streets after Friday prayers to express their anger at the unrest, IRNA news agency reported.
“Death to America!”, “Death to Israel!” and “American soldiers are fighting religion!”, they chanted.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry warned citizens against joining “illegal” street rallies on Friday, threatening prosecution. Local officials have announced the arrest of dozens of protesters.
Hasan Hosseinpour, deputy chief of police in the northern province of Gilan, reported that 211 people were arrested on Friday. The government of the western province of Hamadan said 58 protesters were arrested.
Tehran University has announced that it will move classes online next week amid the unrest, Fars media reported.
London-based Amnesty International accused security forces of beating protesters with batons and firing weapons at close range. Videos show police and military police using live fire, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests.
Iran has experienced waves of protests in the past, mainly due to a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by US sanctions related to its nuclear program.
In November 2019, the country saw its worst violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as protests erupted over government-controlled fuel price hikes.
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