Tehran: Protests flared in Iran for an eighth straight night Friday over the death of a young woman arrested by the morality police, verified social media posts showed, hours after counter-demonstrations mobilized by authorities.
At least 50 people have been killed by security forces in the anti-government protests, Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based organization, said – more than three times the official death count of 17, which includes five security personnel.
The street violence, which IHR says has spread to 80 towns and cities, was triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd who had spent three days in a coma after being detained by the morality police in Tehran.
Verified footage spread on social media showed large crowds of protesters gathering in several neighbour hoods of the capital Tehran after dark, just hours after the government-backed rallies dispersed.
Some were confronted by armed anti-riot police or militia.
The scenes in Iran are astonishing. How far will these protests go?
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) September 20, 2022
Iran has imposed tough restrictions on the use of the internet in a bid to hamper protesters gathering and stop the flow of images of the backlash from reaching the outside world.
Amini died on September 16, three days after she was hospitalized following her arrest by the morality police, the unit responsible for enforcing the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
Activists said she suffered a blow to the head in custody but this has been disputed by the Iranian authorities, who have opened an investigation.
After she was pronounced dead, angry protests flared and spread to major cities, including Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz as well as her native Kurdistan province.
In the latest violence, demonstrators clashed with security forces on Friday evening in the city of Bokan in West Azerbaijan province, said Hengaw, a second Oslo-based rights group. The report by this Kurdish organization could not be independently verified.
In the city of Babol, in northern Mazandaran province, demonstrators were seen setting ablaze a large billboard bearing the image of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in videos shared online.
Unverified footage appeared to show protesters setting fire to a base of the feared Basij militia on Ferdowsi Street in downtown Terhan. It could not immediately be verified.
Some women demonstrators have defiantly taken off their hijabs and burned them in bonfires or symbolically cut their hair before cheering crowds, video footages spread on social media has shown.