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At least 9 dead as Iran protests against the spread of a woman’s death

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Clashes between Iranian security forces and angry protesters over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have left at least nine people dead since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally released Thursday by the Associated Press.

The scale of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities – expressing anger at the country’s social repression and growing crises – continue to clash security and paramilitary forces.

To prevent the protests from spreading, Iran’s largest telecom operator largely shut down mobile internet access again on Thursday, Netblocks, a group that monitors internet access, said, describing the restrictions as the toughest since. 2019.

An Iranian state television presenter suggested the death toll in mass protests could reach 17 on Thursday, but did not say how he reached that figure.

In a country where radio and television stations are already state-controlled and journalists are regularly threatened with arrest, the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards on Thursday urged justice to prosecute “anyone who spreads false news and rumors on social media about the unrest. Widespread outages of Instagram and WhatsApp, which are used by protesters, also continued on Thursday.

WhatsApp tweeted that it was “working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do everything in our technical ability to keep our service up and running.”

Protests in Iran began with an outpouring of emotion following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by the country’s vice squad for allegedly violating its strictly enforced dress code. His death drew strong condemnation from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

The US government has imposed sanctions on morality police and leaders of other Iranian security agencies, saying they “regularly use violence to suppress peaceful protesters”.

Iranian police say Amini died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family have cast doubt on that account. Independent experts affiliated with the UN said Thursday that reports suggested she had been severely beaten by morality police, without providing evidence.

Niloufar Hamedi, a journalist who took pictures at the hospital after Amini’s death, was arrested on Thursday, according to the reporter’s lawyer, Mohammadali Kamfirouzi. He said his house had been raided. There has been no official comment.

The protests have turned over the past five days into an open challenge to the government, with women stripping and burning their compulsory headscarves in the streets and Iranians calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself.

“Death to the dictator!” has been a common cry in the protests.

These are the most serious protests since 2019, when protests erupted over a government hike in petrol prices. Rights groups say hundreds of people were killed in the ensuing crackdown, the deadliest violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The latest protests are just as widespread, but appear to have much wider support among the population, with Iranians from all walks of life expressing their fury at Amini’s death and the government’s treatment of women.

Iranian state media this week reported protests in at least 13 cities, including the capital, Tehran. Online videos show security forces firing tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters. London-based Amnesty International reported that officers also fired shots and beat protesters with batons.

Footage circulating on social media from the northern city of Tabriz shows a young man who was allegedly shot dead by security forces bleeding in the street as protesters screamed for help.

Another video showed a police officer firing a shotgun at a protester tearing down a pro-government billboard in North Khorasan province. It is not known if he was injured.

In another video, protesters can be seen setting fire to a huge billboard showing Qassem Soleimani – the top Iranian general who was killed in a US airstrike – in his hometown of Kerman. Soleimani has iconic status among government supporters.

At least nine people died in the clashes, according to an AP tally based on statements by Iran’s state and semi-official media. In a statement on Thursday, the Guard blamed the unrest on “enemies of Iran”.

In Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, the provincial police chief said four protesters were shot dead. In Kermanshah, the prosecutor said two protesters were killed, insisting the bullets were not fired by Iranian security forces.

Three men affiliated with the Basij, a volunteer force under the Guard, were killed in clashes in the cities of Shiraz, Tabriz and Mashhad, semi-official media reported, bringing the death toll acknowledged by officials to at least nine on both sides.

In the northern province of Mazandaran, angry mobs damaged or set fire to more than 40 government properties and injured 76 security officers, said Rouhollah Solgi, the deputy governor.

Iran has recently been grappling with waves of protests, mostly over a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions over its nuclear program. Citizens also blame government corruption and mismanagement.

The Biden administration and its European allies have been working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran limited its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but talks have stalled for decades. month.

From New York, where Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, CNN chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour said she planned to confront Raisi about the protests in what would be his first interview in the United States.

But Amanpour wrote on Twitter that Raisi was a no-show. An aide told her the president refused to attend unless she wore a headscarf, given the “situation in Iran.” The Iranian government has not commented on the incident.

“I could not accept this unprecedented and unexpected condition,” the British-Iranian anchor wrote alongside a photo of Raisi’s empty chair.

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