Iran’s death toll rises as protests mount

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  • Member of the security forces among the dead
  • Turmoil engulfs Iran since young woman died in custody
  • Video on social media shows new protest at Tehran University

DUBAI, Sept. 21 (Reuters) – Iranian authorities said three people, including a member of the security forces, had been killed on Tuesday amid unrest that swept the country as anger over the death of a woman in the custody of the morality police sparked protests for a fifth day.

Official sources now say a total of seven people have been killed since protests broke out on Saturday against the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan who died last week after being arrested in Tehran for “inappropriate clothing”.

According to reports from the Kurdish rights group Hengaw, seven protesters were killed by security forces, three of them on Tuesday, in or near Kurdish areas in the northwest of the country where the unrest has been particularly intense and deadly.

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Officials have denied that security forces killed protesters.

Hengaw also said internet access had been cut in Kurdistan province – a measure that would hinder video sharing from a region where authorities have previously suppressed unrest by the Kurdish minority. read more

The internet shutdown observatory NetBlocks and residents said Iran has restricted access to Instagram, the only major social media platform Iran does not usually block. A senior official recently said it had about 48 million users in the country.

The communications minister said he was misquoted after news outlets quoted him as saying authorities could disrupt internet services for security reasons. read more

Amini’s death has sparked anger over issues such as freedoms in the Islamic Republic and an economy teetering from sanctions. Women have waved and burned their veils during protests, and some have cut their hair in public.

After beginning Saturday at Amini’s funeral in the Kurdish region, protests have engulfed much of the country, sparking clashes as security forces have tried to suppress them.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made no mention of the protests — some of the worst unrest in Iran since street clashes over water shortages last year — during a speech Wednesday commemorating the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. read more

A top Khamenei employee this week expressed his condolences to Amini’s family, promised to follow up on the matter and said the Supreme Leader was struck and pained by her death.

According to the official IRNA news agency, a “police assistant” died of injuries in the southern city of Shiraz on Tuesday.

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

In Kermanshah, the prosecutor said two people were killed in riots on Tuesday. “We are sure that 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 quoted prosecutor Shahram Karami as saying.

Kurdistan’s police chief confirmed four deaths earlier this week in Kurdistan province in a comment to the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Wednesday. He said they had been shot with a type of bullet not used by the security forces, and said “gangs” wanted to blame the police and security officials.

Hengaw said a total of 450 people were injured, in addition to the seven Kurdish protesters who had been killed in the past four days as a result of “direct fire” from government forces. Reuters could not independently confirm the reports about the victim.

Amini fell into a coma and died while waiting with other women detained by the vice squad, which enforces strict rules in the Islamic Republic requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes in public. read more

Her father said she had no health problems and that she had bruises on her legs while in custody. He holds the police responsible for her death. The police deny doing anything to her.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an impartial investigation into her death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment. read more

‘DEATH TO THE DICTATOR’

Videos shared on social media also show protesters damaging symbols of the Islamic Republic and confronting security forces.

One showed a man climbing the facade of City Hall in the northern city of Sari and tearing down an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution.

The semi-official ISNA news agency said 12 ambulances had been attacked and banks and public properties in several cities had been damaged. Protesters have accused police of using ambulances to transport troops and detain protesters

People gathered again in Tehran on Wednesday, 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.

State media and officials have portrayed the unrest as rioting by “anti-revolutionary elements”.

Members of the Basij, a militia under the umbrella of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, held their own rallies in Tehran on Wednesday. “The vice squad is just an excuse, they target the regime itself,” they chanted in a video to 1500tasvir.

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Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Written by Tom Perry Edited by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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