Protests in Iran spread, death toll rises as internet is brought to a halt

  • Unrest has engulfed Iran since the young woman died in custody
  • At least eight people were killed
  • Curbed access to Instagram, WhatsApp, partially interrupted Internet
  • Social media video shows protests spreading across Iran

DUBAI, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Iranian authorities and a Kurdish rights group reported a rise in the death toll on Wednesday as anger over the death of a woman arrested by morality police fueled protests over the fifth day and new restrictions were placed on social media.

Iranian media and a local prosecutor said four people were killed in the past two days, bringing the total death toll to eight according to official sources, including a member of the police and a member of the pro-government militia.

Demonstrations erupted over the death in detention last week of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan arrested in Tehran for “unsuitable clothing”.

The protests, which have been concentrated in northwestern Iran populated by Kurds but have spread to at least 50 cities and towns nationwide, are the largest since a spate of demonstrations in 2019 over the price hike of petrol.

Reports by Kurdish rights group Hengaw, which Reuters could not verify, said 10 protesters were killed. Three died on Wednesday, adding to the seven people the group said were killed by security forces.

Officials denied that security forces killed the protesters, suggesting they may have been killed by armed dissidents.

With no sign of easing in protests, authorities have restricted Internet access, according to reports from Hengaw, residents and the Internet Shutdown Observatory NetBlocks.


Activists expressed concern that the internet shutdown echoed a government move ahead of a 2019 crackdown on fuel price protests, when Reuters reported that 1,500 people were killed.

NetBlocks and residents said access was restricted to Instagram – the only major social media platform Iran usually allows and which has millions of users – and that some mobile phone networks were shut down. to know more

“Iran is now under the toughest internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre,” NetBlocks said.

WhatsApp users said they could only send text, not images, while Hengaw said internet access had been cut off in Kurdistan province, moves that would hamper the sharing of videos from a region where authorities have previously cracked down the unrest of the Kurdish minority. to know more

Meta Platforms (META.O), which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amini’s death has sparked anger over issues such as freedoms in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions. Women played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils, with some cutting their hair in public.

Amini slipped into a coma while being held by the morality police, which enforce strict rules in Iran requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose clothing in public. Her funeral was on Saturday. to know more

His father said he had no health problems and sustained bruises on his legs while in custody. He holds the police responsible for his death. The police denied harming her.

One of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top aides this week expressed condolences to Amini’s family, promising to follow up on the case and saying Khamenei was saddened by her death.

Activists said they feared an escalation of the crackdown. “We are concerned that the world will forget about Iran as soon as the regime shuts down the internet, which is already happening,” an activist told Reuters.

Fars news agency, close to Revolutionary Guard elites, released videos accusing protesters of setting fire to a mosque, an Islamic shrine and buses, attacking a bank and unveiling a woman’s headscarf.

Such charges against dissidents preceded violent crackdowns after protests dating back to the 2009 unrest.

“We are receiving warnings from security organizations to end the protests or risk prison,” said an activist in northwestern Kurdistan province.

Fars said on Wednesday that a member of the Basij, a militia under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guards, was killed in the northwestern city of Tabriz, while the official IRNA news agency said a “police assistant” died on Tuesday for the injuries sustained in the southern city of Shiraz.

A Kermanshah prosecutor said two people were killed in rioting on Tuesday, blaming the armed dissidents because the victims were killed with weapons not used by police. Meanwhile, Kurdistan’s police chief confirmed four deaths earlier this week in the province, blaming “gangs” for their deaths.

Hengaw said 450 people were injured in addition to the 10 protesters he said died during protests mostly in the northwest. Reuters could not independently confirm the casualty reports.

Videos shared on social media showed protesters damaging symbols of the Islamic Republic and confronting security forces.

One showed a man scaling the facade of City Hall in the northern city of Sari and tearing down a picture of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution.

In Tehran on Wednesday, hundreds of people shouted “death to the dictator” at Tehran University, shows a video shared by 1500tasvir. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

Report from the Dubai editorial team; Written by Tom Perry and Dominic Evans Editing by David Gregorio, Rosalba O’Brien and Howard Goller

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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