Iran protests flare for 10th night as tensions grow with West
Iran has arrested more than 1,200 protesters, officials said Monday, in its lethal crackdown on 10 nights of unrest driven by outrage over the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of the notorious morality police.
At least 41 people have been killed as Iran has heavily deployed security forces against nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of Amini, 22, following her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.
Tensions grew between the Islamic republic and Western nations as Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador, a day after the European Union protested the “widespread and disproportionate use of force” and Tehran called in the British and Norwegian envoys.
Protests flared again across Iran overnight as a Tehran crowd shouted “death to the dictator”, calling for the end of the more than the three-decade rule of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, in footage shared by Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR).
“Woman, Life, Freedom!” the crowds have chanted as female protesters have defiantly thrown their hijabs into bonfires and blazing rubbish dumpsters — a rallying cry that has been echoed at solidarity protests worldwide, including in London and Paris at the weekend.
Iranian riot police in black body armour have beaten protesters with truncheons in running street battles, and students have torn down large pictures of the supreme leader and his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in recent video footage published by AFP.
In Iran’s biggest protests in almost three years, security forces have used water cannons but also fired birdshot and live rounds, according to rights groups, while protesters have hurled rocks, torched police cars and set public buildings ablaze.
The IHR rights group said Sunday at least 57 protesters have been killed.
The total number of officially reported arrests rose above 1,200, according to state media reports citing various officials, including about 450 in northern Mazandaran province, over 700 reported Saturday in neighbouring Gilan and dozens in several other regions.
– ‘Police on duty 24 hours’ –
“Rioters have attacked government buildings and damaged public property,” Mazandaran’s chief prosecutor Mohammad Karimi told official news agency IRNA, charging that they were steered by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents”.
Tehran police have been deployed “24 hours a day” and many have not slept, said the Iranian judiciary chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, thanking exhausted officers and the capital’s police chief during a visit to their headquarters Sunday, in a video posted by Mizan Online.
Ejei earlier stressed “the need for decisive action without leniency” against the protest instigators. Several security officers have been killed in the unrest, according to Iranian media.
But a powerful Shiite cleric long aligned with the country’s ultra-conservative establishment urged authorities to take a softer line.
“The leaders must listen to the demands of the people, resolve their problems and show sensitivity to their rights,” said Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani on Sunday.
Despite sweeping internet restrictions, including blocks on Instagram and WhatsApp, new videos shared widely on social media showed protests Sunday night in Tehran and cities including Yazd, Isfahan and Bushehr on the Persian Gulf.
Norway-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw said a protest was held in Amini’s hometown of Saqqez “despite a heavy military presence”, and there were reports of a 10-year-old girl being shot and hospitalised in the northern town of Bukan.
The Tasnim news agency published photos of about 20 “riot leaders”, including several women, taken in the holy shrine city of Qom, and said the military and security forces were calling on citizens to “identify them and inform the authorities”.
Other reports said that students at Tehran and Al-Zahra Universities and the Sharif Institute have gone on strike and urged professors to join them.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday slammed Iran for its “widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protestors”.
He said the EU would “continue to consider all the options at its disposal … to address the killing of Mahsa Amini” and the state response to the protests in Iran, a country already under punishing sanctions over its nuclear programme.
Germany on Monday said it had summoned the Iranian ambassador over the crackdown on the protests, with a conversation set to “take place this afternoon”, according to the foreign ministry.
Tehran, for its part, said Sunday it had summoned Britain’s ambassador to protest what it called an “invitation to riots” by London-based Farsi language media, and Norway’s envoy over the parliamentary speaker’s “unconstructive comments” on the protests.
US President Joe Biden last week saluted the Iranian protesters, telling the UN General Assembly that “we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights”.