Iran protests spread, death toll rises as internet curbs

  • Unrest has swept Iran since the death of a young woman in custody
  • At least eight people were killed
  • Access to Instagram, WhatsApp and the Internet is partially restricted
  • A video clip on social media shows the spread of protests across Iran

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian authorities and a Kurdish rights group reported a rise in the death toll on Wednesday as anger over the killing of a woman detained by morality police stoked protests for a fifth day and new restrictions imposed on social media.

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

The demonstrations erupted against the backdrop of the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, from Iranian Kurdistan, who was arrested in Tehran on charges of “wearing inappropriate clothes”, while in detention last week.

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The protests, which were centered in the Kurdish-populated northwestern regions of Iran but spread to at least 50 cities and towns nationwide, are the largest since a wave of demonstrations in 2019 over high gasoline prices.

Reports from the Kurdish rights group Hengau, which Reuters could not verify, said 10 protesters had been killed. Three were killed on Wednesday, in addition to seven people the group said were killed by security forces.

Officials denied that security forces had killed protesters, citing the possibility that they had come under fire from armed opponents.

With the protests showing no sign of easing, authorities have restricted internet access, according to accounts by Hengaw, residents and the NetBlocks internet closure monitor.

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Internet courses

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

NetBlocks and residents said access was restricted to Instagram – the only major social media platform normally allowed by Iran and with millions of users – and that some mobile networks had been shut down. Read more

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

WhatsApp users said they could only send text messages, not pictures, while Hengaw said internet access had been cut off in the Kurdistan region — steps that would hinder the sharing of videos from an area where authorities previously cracked down on Kurdish minority unrest. Read more

meta pads (META.O)The owner of Instagram and WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

Amini fell into a coma while being detained 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. Read more

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Her father said she had no health problems and had bruised her legs in custody. He holds the police responsible for her death. The police denied harming her.

A senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences to Amini’s family this week, promising to follow up on the case and saying Khamenei was pained by her death.

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

The Fars News Agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, published videos accusing the demonstrators of burning a mosque, an Islamic shrine, and buses, attacking a bank and removing a woman’s veil.

Such accusations against dissent were preceded by violent crackdowns after protests dating back to the 2009 unrest.

An activist in the Kurdistan region, northwest of Iraq, said: “We receive warnings from the security services to end the protests or face imprisonment.”

On Wednesday, Fars news agency said a member of the Revolutionary Guards’ Basij militia had been killed in the northwestern city of Tabriz, while the official IRNA news agency reported that a “police assistant” had died of his wounds on Tuesday in the southern city. Shiraz.

The Kermanshah prosecutor said two people were killed on Tuesday in a riot, and blamed armed defectors for the victims being killed with weapons not used by the police. Meanwhile, the Kurdistan police chief confirmed the killing of four people earlier this week in the region, blaming “gangs” for their deaths.

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Hengao said 450 people were injured, in addition to 10 protesters she said were killed in protests mainly in the northwest. Reuters could not independently confirm the casualty reports.

Video clips circulated on social media showed demonstrators harming symbols of the Islamic Republic and confronting security forces.

One showed a man climbing the facade of a city hall in the northern city of Sari and tearing up an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution.

A video shared by 1500tasvir on Wednesday in Tehran showed hundreds chanting “Death to the dictator” at Tehran University. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

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Reporting from the Dubai Newsroom. Written by Tom Perry and Dominic Evans Editing by David Gregorio, Rosalba O’Brien and Howard Guler

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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