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Activists said Mahsa Amini suffered a blow to the head in custody but this has not been confirmed by Iranian authorities. Photo: IranWire via Reuters

Protests spread in Iran after death of Mahsa Amini

  • Protests spread to 15 cities across Iran overnight over the death of the young woman Mahsa Amini
  • Amini died while being held by the morality police for violating the country’s Islamic dress code

International alarm mounted over a deadly crackdown in Iran against protests that erupted over the death of young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini following her arrest by Tehran’s notorious morality police.

Amini, 22, died on Friday three days after she was urgently hospitalised following her arrest by police responsible for enforcing Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Activists said she suffered a blow to the head in custody but this has not been confirmed by Iranian authorities, who have opened an investigation.

Protests spread to 15 cities across Iran overnight, state media reported on Wednesday.

In the fifth night of street rallies, police used tear gas and made arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people, the official IRNA news agency said.

Demonstrators blockaded streets, hurled stones at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and garbage bins, and chanted anti-government slogans, it added.

The protests are among the most serious in Iran since the November 2019 unrest over fuel price rises, and marked this time by the presence of large numbers of women.

New Iran protests break out over woman’s death in police custody

They have on occasion removed their headscarves in defiance of the Islamic republic’s strict laws and sometimes even set them on fire or symbolically cut their hair.

Rallies were held overnight in the capital Tehran and other major cities, including Mashhad in the northeast, Tabriz in the northwest, Rasht in the north, Isfahan in the centre and Shiraz in the south, IRNA reported.

Kurdistan province governor Ismail Zarei Koosha confirmed the deaths of three people, insisting they were “killed suspiciously” as part of “a plot by the enemy”, according to the Fars news agency.

The Norway-based Kurdish human rights group Hengaw – which had first reported those three deaths – said on Wednesday that two more protesters had been killed overnight.

The two, aged 16 and 23, died in the towns of Piranshahr, where there were very fierce clashes, and Urmia, both in West Azerbaijan province, Hengaw said.

Another male protester who was wounded in Divandareh on September 17 died from his injuries in hospital, it said.

A 10-year-old girl – images of whose blood-spattered body have gone viral on social media – was wounded in the town of Bukan but alive, Hengaw added.

Activists say, however, that dozens of people have also been wounded and accuse the security forces of using live fire that has caused the casualties.

A police motorcycle burns in Tehran during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini. Photo: West Asia News Agency

New York-based Human Rights Watch said witness accounts and videos circulating on social media “indicate that authorities are using tear gas to disperse protesters and have apparently used lethal force in Kurdistan province”.

In Geneva, the United Nations said acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif expressed alarm at Amini’s death and the “violent response by security forces to ensuing protests”.

She said there must be an independent investigation into “Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment”.

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“Death to the dictator”, and “Woman, life, freedom”, protesters shouted, while demonstrators were shown starting fires and seeking to overturn police vehicles in several cities.

“It is not surprising to us that we are seeing people of all walks of life come out in Iran to object vigorously to that, and say that is not the kind of society that they want to live in,” said US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said countries with diplomatic relations with Iran must act “to stop further state killings by supporting the people’s demands to realise their basic rights”.

IHR said security forces used batons, tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and live ammunition in certain regions to “crush the protests”.

The scene of a protest in Tehran on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Access to internet in Iran may be disrupted due to “security reasons”, the minister of communications was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“Due to security issues and the debates going on currently in the country, restrictions to the internet may be decided and applied by the security apparatus, but overall we have not had any bandwidth reduction,” Issa Zarepour said.

The situation will add to pressure on Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi who is in New York for the UN General Assembly this week where he was already set to face intense scrutiny over Iran’s human rights record.

Dissidents and ex-prisoners on Tuesday announced in New York the filing of a civil lawsuit against Raisi, over his role as a judge in the 1980s when thousands of people were sentenced to death in the country.

Cameron Khansarinia, political director of the advocacy group National Union for Democracy in Iran, said the complainants were “echoing the cries we hear today on the streets of Iran”.