Protests in Iran against repression of women accumulate deaths and hundreds of prisoners

Protests in Iran against repression of women accumulate deaths and hundreds of prisoners

Protests against the death of a young woman arrested for not wearing the Islamic veil in Iran entered their fifth day with demonstrations spread across 15 cities, a toll of at least six officially confirmed dead and about 500 arrested, according to human rights NGOs, and increasing international pressure on the Islamic Republic to investigate the incident and respect women’s freedoms. There were also reports of interruption of the internet signal and the operation of Instagram.

The death last week of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after being arrested by the moral police in Tehran for wearing “inappropriate attire” has drawn the ire of thousands of people unhappy with restrictions on freedoms and an economy in crisis.

The young woman had been detained by police on Tuesday on the grounds that she should be “convinced and polite”, but was released from prison directly to the hospital, where she died three days later, on Friday.

The protests began on Saturday at Amini’s funeral in the Iranian province of Kurdistan, where she lived, and reached 15 cities on Wednesday (21), according to state media.

Protesters blocked streets, threw stones at security forces and set fire to police cars and garbage cans, while shouting anti-government slogans. Police used tear gas and arrested people, according to the state agency IRNA. Many Iranian women removed their veils in protest.

There are conflicting versions of the number of people who died in clashes between protesters and security forces. Human rights NGOs speak of at least eight deaths. So far, six have been confirmed by authorities – three would have occurred this Wednesday, with one of the victims being a member of the security forces.

Government officials have blamed some of these deaths on terrorist groups and “counterrevolutionary agents.”

Human rights group Hengaw also claims that around 450 people were injured and nearly 500 arrested, figures that could not be independently verified.

Hengaw also said internet access had been cut off in Kurdistan province — a move that would prevent the sharing of videos from a region where authorities have already quelled minority Kurdish unrest.

On Wednesday, the NetBlocks observatory said the Iranian government had restricted access to Instagram.

Earlier, official media reported that the country’s communications minister had said that internet services could be interrupted for security reasons. He later backtracked and said he was misunderstood.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made no mention of the protests during a speech on Wednesday commemorating the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

A top aide to Khamenei offered condolences to Amini’s family this week, promising to follow up on the case and saying the leader was hurt by his death.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accused the West of having “double standards” regarding women’s rights. “There are double standards, with attention to only one side, not all,” said Raisi, referring to the deaths of indigenous women in Canada and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

international pressure

After the incident, the United States said, through a White House spokesman, that there should be responsibility for the death of the young woman, which they called “terrible and scandalous”. They also said that Iran must stop the use of violence against women for exercising their fundamental freedoms, and that they must be able to dress any way they want.

On Wednesday, British Foreign Minister Tariq Ahmad said the UK was extremely concerned by what happened to Amini and called on the Iranian government to investigate the circumstances of his death “with rigor and transparency and hold anyone responsible to account”. “We urge Iran to respect the right to peaceful assembly, exercise restraint and release unjustly detained protesters,” Ahmad said.

Police deny Amini was assaulted, claiming she suffered a heart attack. Activists say, however, that the authorities’ approach in such cases has been violent, often with the beating of these women.

Amini’s brother Kiarash told Iran Wire that he was with her at the time of the arrest. The family was visiting the capital, Tehran, on the day. When he questioned the officers, he would have heard that her sister would only be at the police station for an hour. He then went to the scene, where he claims to have come across dozens of other women detained for similar reasons.

Kiarash said the family will seek justice for an investigation to be carried out. The girl’s father blamed the police for her death in an interview with the news website Emtedad. He stated that his daughter had no health problems and added that she suffered leg bruises.

In addition to Tehran, other cities that registered demonstrations on Wednesday were Mashhad (northeast), Tabriz (northwest), Rasht (north), Isfahan (center) and Shiraz (south), the IRNA news agency reported.

‘Moral detention’

In Iran, after the 1979 Revolution, which gave way to a theocratic regime, the law began to state that women are obliged to cover their hair with a veil and to wear baggy clothes to cover the shape of their bodies. Those who break the rule face public reprimands, fines and even imprisonment.

The law has never ceased to be questioned, despite repression. Over the past few months, human rights activists have swayed women to publicly remove their veils in protest against the dress code, which has angered government officials and security officials, who say the act constitutes immoral behavior.

Earlier this month, two Iranian lesbian activists were sentenced to death for “promoting homosexuality”. They were also accused of promoting the Christian religion and having contacted a media outlet that opposes the government.

On social media, Iranians have expressed their repudiation of the existence of the practice known as “moral detention”, perpetrated by so-called guidance patrols. Some videos shared show police officers detaining women, dragging them to the ground and forcibly taking them away.

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