October 3, 2022
At least 50 killed as anti-hijab protests intensify across Iran

At least 50 killed as anti-hijab protests intensify across Iran

Iran has imposed strict restrictions on the use of the Internet to quell the protests.

Tehran:

Protests in Iran intensified for the eighth consecutive night on Friday over the death of a young woman arrested by morality police, verified social media posts showed, hours after retaliatory protests by authorities.

At least 50 people have been killed by security forces in anti-government demonstrations, Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based organisation, said – more than three times the official death toll of 17, including five security personnel.

The street violence, which the IHR says has spread to 80 towns and cities, was triggered by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Mahsa Amini, who spent three days in a coma after being detained by ethics police in Tehran.

Verified footage spread on social media shows large crowds of protesters gathering in several areas of the capital Tehran after dark, hours after government-backed rallies dispersed.

Some encountered armed anti-riot police or militias.

Iran has imposed strict restrictions on Internet access, obstructing the gathering of protesters and preventing the flow of images of the reaction from reaching the outside world.

– ‘Afraid of loved ones’ –

The United States announced on Friday that it was easing export restrictions on Iran to expand Internet services, after SpaceX boss Elon Musk said he was looking to offer his company’s Starlink satellite service in the Islamic republic. Will seek exemption from sanctions.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said the new measures would “help counter the Iranian government’s efforts to survey and censor its citizens.”

“It is clear that the Iranian government is afraid of its own people,” he said.

Thousands took to the streets in support of the hijab at government-backed counter rallies in Tehran and other cities on Friday.

Iran’s Mehr news agency said: “There was a great demonstration today by the Iranian people who condemned the conspirators and the sacrilege against religion.”

State television broadcast footage of pro-hijab protesters in central Tehran, many of them men but also women, wearing black sheets.

– Deadly skirmishes –

Amini died on 16 September, three days after being hospitalized following an arrest by the ethics police, the unit responsible for enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

Activists said he suffered head injuries in custody but this has been disputed by Iranian officials, who have launched an investigation.

After he was pronounced dead, angry protests intensified and spread to major cities including Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz, as well as his native Kurdistan province.

In the latest violence, protesters clashed with security forces in the city of Bokan in West Azerbaijan province on Friday evening, said a second Oslo-based rights group, Hango. The report of this Kurdish outfit could not be independently verified.

In a video shared online, in the city of Babol in northern Mazandaran province, protesters were seen setting fire to a large billboard bearing the image of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Unverified footage showed protesters setting fire to a base of a feared Basij militia on Firdousi Street in the city of Terhan. This could not be confirmed immediately.

Video footage that went viral on social media showed some female protesters removing their hijabs and burning them in bonfires or symbolically cutting their hair.

– ‘Bleeding a lot’ –

State news agency IRNA reported that protesters pelted stones at security forces, torched police cars and raised anti-government slogans.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said, “According to videos shared on social media, the government has responded with ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas, leaving protesters bleeding profusely. “

Internet access has been restricted in what web monitor Netblocks calls a “curfew-style pattern of disruptions”.

“Online platforms remained restricted and connectivity was disrupted for many users and mobile internet was disrupted for the third day on Friday,” Netblox said.

Iran’s Fars news agency said the measures were taken in response to “actions carried out through these social networks by counter-revolutionaries against national security”.

President Ibrahim Raisi, at a news conference in New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, said on Thursday: “We must distinguish between protesters and vandalism”.

The unrest comes at a particularly sensitive time for the leadership, as the Iranian economy is mired in crisis largely due to US sanctions on its nuclear program.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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