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Paris (AFP) – Iran restricted internet access on Thursday after days of protests and riots that have claimed at least 11 lives, following the death of a young woman in moral police custody.
Public anger has erupted in the Islamic Republic over the death last week of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly wearing a headscarf “improperly”.
Activists said the woman, whose first Kurdish name is Jhina, had suffered a fatal blow to the head, a claim denied by authorities, who have announced an investigation.
For six straight nights of protests, female protesters defiantly removed their headscarves and burned them at bonfires or symbolically cut their hair before cheering crowds, video footage posted on social media shows.
“No to the veil… yes to freedom and equality!” Protesters in Tehran were heard chanting in a demonstration that has echoed solidarity protests abroad.
Iranian women interviewed by AFP on the streets of Tehran said they were now more careful about their dress to avoid clashes with the morality police.
“I’m scared,” said Nazanin, a 23-year-old nurse, who asked to be identified by her first name only for security reasons. “They shouldn’t confront people at all” or interfere with the way women dress, she added.
There has been growing international alarm over the Iranian crackdown on protests, including by US President Joe Biden in a speech to the United Nations.
“Today we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are demonstrating right now to secure their basic rights,” Biden told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
‘Woman, life, freedom’
He was speaking shortly after world leaders gathered in New York heard a defiant speech by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
He pointed to the deaths of indigenous women in Canada, as well as Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories and the Islamic State group’s “savagery” against women from minority religious groups.
“As long as we have this double standard, where the focus is only on one side and not all equally, we will not have true justice and fairness,” Raisi said.
Iranian state media reported that by Wednesday street demonstrations had spread to 15 cities, with police using tear gas and making arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people.
In southern Iran, video footage purportedly from Wednesday showed protesters setting fire to a gigantic image on the side of a building of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the revered Revolutionary Guards commander killed in a US drone strike in Iraq. in 2020.
Protesters hurled stones at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and garbage containers and chanted anti-government slogans, the official IRNA news agency said.
“Death to the dictator” and “Woman, life, freedom,” protesters could be heard shouting in video footage that spread beyond Iran, despite online restrictions first reported by Internet Access Monitor. Internet Netblocks.
Iran moved to further block access to Instagram and WhatsApp on Thursday.
“According to a decision by officials, it has no longer been possible to access Instagram in Iran since yesterday (Wednesday) night and access to WhatsApp is also interrupted,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
The two apps were the most widely used in Iran after the blocking of other platforms in recent years, including Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok.
UN human rights experts condemned both the “use of physical violence against women” and “state-imposed internet shutdowns.”
“Internet disruptions are often part of a larger effort to stifle…free speech…and de-escalate ongoing protests,” they said in a statement.
‘Shock’ to the regime
On Thursday, Iranian media said three militiamen “mobilized to deal with rioters” were stabbed or shot dead in northwestern Tabriz, central Qazvin and northeastern Mashhad.
A fourth member of the security forces was reportedly killed in the southern city of Shiraz, adding that a protester was stabbed to death in Qazvin, adding to the six deaths of protesters already announced by authorities.
But it was feared the death toll could rise as the Norway-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw also reported the deaths of two protesters, aged 16 and 23, in West Azerbaijan province on Wednesday.
Iranian authorities have denied any involvement in the deaths of the protesters.
Amnesty International said it has recorded the deaths of eight people, six men, one woman and one child, four of them shot by security forces at close range with metal pellets.
The protests are among the most serious in Iran since the November 2019 riots over rising fuel prices.
© 2022 AFP