Protests rock Iran after Mahsa Amini’s police-custody death

Pro-government protesters took to the streets of Iran on Friday, calling for the execution of people protesting after a young woman died in police custody for improperly wearing her hijab.

The Iranian government took steps to quell protests as civil unrest raged following the suspected death of Mahsa Amini, 22 – with the regime shutting down internet service and reportedly arresting the journalist who drew international attention to the case.

The supposedly spontaneous pro-regime counter-protests in Tehran and other cities came after a week of clashes that left up to 35 people dead.

The pro-government protesters called the anti-government protesters “Israel’s soldiers” and shouted “Death America!” and “Death Israel!” while the Iranian republic blamed foreign influence for fomenting the unrest, the Guardian reported, citing state television.

Iranian pro-government protesters.
Iranian pro-government protesters attend a rally after their Friday prayers to condemn recent anti-government protests over the death of a young woman in police custody in Tehran, Iran on Friday September 23, 2022.

“Offenders of the Koran must be executed,” chanted some counter-protesters, the Guardian said.

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Amini died on September 16, three days after she was arrested by the country’s vice squad because her traditional Islamic headscarf did not fully cover her hair – a violation of Iran’s strict dress code for women. Officials claimed she dropped dead of a heart attack, although reports surfaced that she had been beaten – and possibly tortured – while in custody.

Her death sparked protests in at least 13 cities across the country already hit by western sanctions. Viral images showed protesters facing fire and police tear gas, with women demonstrating by shedding their hijabs and in some cases even setting them on fire in the street.

Iranian exiles from the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather in front of the Iranian embassy in Berlin
Iranian exiles from the National Council of Resistance of Iran gather this week outside the Iranian embassy in Berlin following the death of an Iranian woman being held by the country’s vice squad.

A video showed riot police apparently firing as protesters ran and yelled, “Oh my god, they’re killing people!”

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The situation also led to the Biden administration imposing new sanctions on the vice squad and other Iranian officials, with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen calling the death “another act of brutality” by the regime against its own people.

The Iranian government has taken measures of its own as unrest continues. It has partially blacked out internet access and restricted apps like WhatsApp and Instagram to prevent protesters from organizing rallies.

An image obtained by AFP outside Iran shows a protester raising his arms and making the victory sign during a protest for Mahsa Amini.
An image obtained by AFP outside Iran shows a protester raising his arms and making the victory sign during a protest for Mahsa Amini.
AFP via Getty Images
People light a fire during a protest against Mahsa Amini's death in Tehran, Iran
People light a fire during a protest against Amini’s death in Tehran, Iran, on September 21, 2022.

The US Treasury Department announced Friday it would allow tech firms to expand in Iran and improve internet access after news of the internet disruption circulated.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iranian authorities have also arrested at least 11 journalists, some of whom were detained during “after midnight searches” of their homes. They included Shardh Daily’s Niloofar Hamedi, who was credited with covering Amini’s hospital bed, CPJ said in a statement, citing sources.

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Photographer Yalda Moaiery claimed to have been beaten and arrested while covering the protests, the committee said.

It’s not clear how many people were arrested, but the number is likely in the hundreds – 211 were arrested in northern Gilan province alone. State media on Friday reported 35 deaths linked to the clashes, but it was not clear how that number was counted.

Since hardliner Ebrahim Raisi’s presidential election last year, the vice squad has cracked down on the dress code for women. Raisi, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly, told reporters Amini’s death would be investigated if it was “due to negligence,” the Guardian reported.

With mail wires

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