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27 Sept 2022

At least 26 killed in protests after woman’s death, Iranian state TV suggests

At least 26 killed in protests after woman’s death, Iranian state TV suggests

The death toll from protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody has risen to more than two dozen, Iranian state TV suggested.

It could be as high as 26, an anchor suggested, though he did not elaborate or say how he reached that figure.

“Unfortunately, 26 people and police officers present at the scene of these events lost their lives,” he said, adding official statistics will be released later.

Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters have killed at least 11 people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

The demonstrations in Iran began as an emotional outpouring over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman held by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strictly enforced dress code.

The police say she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.

Iran’s state-run media this week reported demonstrations of hundreds of people in at least 13 cities, including the capital, Tehran.

Iranian authorities imposed some restrictions on the internet and blocked access to WhatsApp and Instagram.

People in Tehran and some other cities planed to hold a counter-protest rally after the Friday prayer.

Ms Amini’s death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations, and touched a national nerve.

Hundreds of Iranians from the capital, Tehran, to Ms Amini’s north-west Kurdish home town of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression.

Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.

“The death has tapped into broader anti-government sentiment in the Islamic Republic and especially the frustration of women,” wrote political risk firm Eurasia Group, noting that Iran’s hardliners have intensified their crackdown on women’s clothing over the past year since former judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi became president.

“In the cold calculus of Iranian leaders … a more forceful response is required to quell the unrest,” the group added.

Videos on social media show protesters in Tehran torching a police car and confronting officers at close range.

Elsewhere in the capital, videos show gunfire sounding out as protesters bolt from riot police shouting: “They are shooting at people! Oh my God they’re killing people!”

In the north-west city of Neyshabur, protesters cheered over an overturned police car.

Footage from Tehran and Mashhad shows women waving their obligatory hijab head coverings in the air like flags while chanting “Freedom!”.

The scenes of women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs feed into a broader political debate over the role of religious strictures in a modern-day republic — questions that have plagued the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.

But the protests have also grown into an open challenge to the government. The chants have been scathing, with some calling for the downfall of the ruling clerics.

The protesters cry, “Death to the dictator!” and “Mullahs must be gone!”.

Iran’s intelligence ministry warned citizens against joining the “illegal” street rallies on Thursday, threatening prosecution.

Local officials have announced the arrest of dozens of protesters. Hasan Hosseinpour, deputy police chief in the northern Gilan province, reported 211 people detained there on Thursday.

The government of the western Hamadan province said 58 demonstrators had been arrested.

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