Iran unrest death toll rises as protests intensify


Dubai (Reuters) – Iranian authorities said on Wednesday three people including a member of the security forces had been killed during unrest sweeping the country, as anger at the death of a woman in police custody fuelled protests for a fifth day.

Rights groups reported at least one more person was killed on Tuesday, which would take the death toll to least seven.

The death last week of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, unleashed simmering anger over issues including freedoms in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.

After beginning on Saturday at Amini’s funeral in Iran’s Kurdistan province, protests have engulfed much of the country, prompting confrontations as security forces have sought to suppress them.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not mention the protests – some of Iran’s worst unrest since street clashes last year over water shortages – during a speech on Wednesday commemorating the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. 

A top Khamenei aide paid condolences to Amini’s family this week, promising to follow up on the case and saying the Supreme Leader was affected and pained by her death.

The official IRNA news agency said a “police assistant” died from injuries on Tuesday in the southern city of Shiraz.

“Some people clashed with police officers and as a result one of the police assistants was killed. In this incident, four other police officers were injured,” IRNA said. An official quoted by IRNA said 15 protesters were arrested in Shiraz.

In Kermanshah, the city prosecutor said two people had been killed on Tuesday in riots. “We are certain this was done by anti-revolutionary elements because the victims were killed by weapons not used by the security apparatus,” the semi-official Fars news agency cited prosecutor Shahram Karami as saying.

Two Kurdish human rights groups – Hengaw and the Kurdistan Human Rights Network – said a 43-year-old man was killed by security forces’ gunfire on Tuesday in Urmia, a city in the western Azerbaijan province.

There was no official confirmation of that death.

Amini fell into a coma and died while waiting with other women held by the morality police, who enforce strict rules in the Islamic Republic requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes in public.

Her father said she had no health problems and that she suffered bruises to her legs in custody and holds the police responsible for her death. The police have denied harming her.

Tehran Rally

Women have been heavily present in the protests, with many waving or burning their veils, or cutting their hair in public.

Videos shared on social media have also shown demonstrators damaging symbols of the Islamic Republic.

One showed a man scaling the facade of the townhall in the northern city of Sari and tearing down an image of Ayatollah Khomeini, who established Iran’s Islamist government after the 1979 revolution.

People rallied again on Wednesday in Tehran, with hundreds shouting “death to the dictator” at Tehran University, a video shared by 1500tasvir showed.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

Hengaw, the Kurdish rights group, said internet had been cut completely in the Kurdistan province, where protests have been particularly intense and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has a history of suppressing unrest.

It also reported the death of another man killed on Tuesday in Piranshahr, also in the western Azerbaijan province, while saying that another died from wounds sustained on Monday in Saqez, Amini’s hometown.

There was no official confirmation of these fatalities.

Hengaw said all the civilians it reported killed were Kurds.

The governor of Kurdistan province has blamed the deaths of three men in Kurdistan province on unspecified terrorist groups. Hengaw has said they were killed when security forces opened fire.

The Tehran governor said authorities had identified 1,800 people with a “history of taking part in previous riots, including 700 who have significant records within various police, security and judicial institutions”.

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