Defying Warning, Iranians’ Anti-hijab Protest Continues For 10th Night: 57 Deaths

Iran protest
Demonstrators burn a scarf at a protest against the Iranian government on Sunday. (David Bates/CBC)

Iranians took to the streets for a 10th consecutive night Sunday, in defiance of a warning from the judiciary, to protest the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

Images circulated by IHR showed protesters on the streets of Tehran, shouting “death to the dictator,” purportedly after nightfall on Sunday.

Witnesses said that protests in several locations were ongoing.

Many Iranian women protesters have removed and burnt their hijabs in the rallies and cut off their hair, some dancing near large bonfires to the applause of crowds that have chanted “zan, zendegi, azadi” or “woman, life, freedom.”

The demonstrations have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces and are the largest since nationwide demonstrations three years ago that were met with a deadly security response that killed hundreds.

Media reports said:

At least 41 people have died since the unrest began, mostly protesters but including members of the Islamic Republic’s security forces, according to an official toll, although other sources say the real figure is higher.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on Sunday evening that the death toll was at least 57, but noted that ongoing internet blackouts were making it increasingly difficult to confirm fatalities in a context where the women-led protests have in recent nights spread to scores of cities.

Hundreds of demonstrators, reformist activists and journalists have been arrested amid the mostly nighttime demonstrations since unrest first broke out after Amini’s death on Sept. 16.

Amini, whose Kurdish first name was Jhina, was detained three days before that for allegedly breaching the rules that mandate tightly-fitted hijab head coverings and which ban, among other things, ripped jeans and brightly colored clothes.

Iran’s largest protests in almost three years have seen security forces fire live rounds and bird shot, rights groups charge, while protesters have hurled rocks, torched police cars and set ablaze state buildings.

Videos circulated on Saturday and Sunday showed protests in several areas of Tehran, as well as in Shiraz, in southern Iran, and Fardis, west of the capital. In one protest in Sattar Khan, a central neighborhood in Tehran, a crowd gathered around what was reported to be a burning police motorcycle, chanting “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are all together,” according to a video posted by 1500 Tasvir, an anti-government monitoring group.

The group said in a text message that the pace of protest videos emerging from Iran had slowed late Saturday into Sunday, in part because of internet disruptions imposed by the authorities over the past week, as well as restrictions on apps including Instagram and WhatsApp. Netblocks, an internet monitoring group, said Sunday evening that it had detected a “nation-scale disruption to Mobinet,” one of the largest mobile network operators in Iran.

In Kurdish areas of western Iran, where Amini was from, cities have become “heavily militarized,” by the security forces, said Rebin Rahmani, member of the board of directors of the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, based in Paris.

The cities of Kermanshah, Kamyaran, Sanandaj, Saqqez, Divandarreh, and Oshnavieh were “under tight security control,” he said. Oshnavieh had been shut down for three days, he said, after a “horrible incident where several people were killed Wednesday night.” He denied earlier reports that protesters had routed security forces in the city.

In a rural area called Balo, near Iran’s border with Turkey, families of protesters who were killed last week set fire to a base used Thursday by the Basij paramilitary forces, Rahmani said.

“We haven’t received any videos today,” he said. “Because the internet is cut it’s very difficult to get any news.” Arrests were being carried out based on previously recorded videos of the protests, he added.

As the internet blackout obscured events in Iran, news of the death of a lone protester, a woman, that circulated widely over the weekend sparked fresh anger.

The woman, Hadis Najafi, had been seen in a video last week tying her blond, uncovered hair in a ponytail on the edge of a protest in Karaj, northwest of Tehran. Human rights activists said she was fatally shot by security forces Wednesday.

The world has learnt of the violence largely through shaky mobile phone footage posted on social media, even as authorities have throttled internet access.

Web monitor NetBlocks noted “rolling blackouts” and “widespread internet platform restrictions,” with WhatsApp, Instagram and Skype having already been blocked.

This followed older bans on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Telegram.

Protests abroad have been held in solidarity with Iranian women in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Istanbul, Madrid, New York and Paris, among other cities.

Iran — which is ruled by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, and which has been hit with tough economic sanctions over its nuclear program — has blamed “foreign plots” for the unrest.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi threatened a harsh response Saturday, vowing a “decisive strike on the disrupters of security and peace of the country,” in a phone call with the family of a slain member of the security forces, local Iranian news outlets reported.

Echoing a warning the previous day by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei on Sunday “emphasized the need for decisive action without leniency” against the core instigators of the “riots,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.

On Sunday, Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s interior minister, called on the judiciary to pursue a “quick, decisive, legal confrontation with the leaders and agents of these riots that will teach others a lesson,” according to Hamshahri, a state-run newspaper.

The foreign ministry said Sunday it had summoned Britain’s ambassador over what it described as an “invitation to riots” by Farsi-speaking media based in London, and Norway’s envoy over “unconstructive comments” made by his country’s parliament speaker.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Amir-Abdollahian criticized “the U.S. interventionist approach in the affairs of Iran including its provocative actions in supporting the rioters.”

Pro-government Rallies

Iran has also organized large rallies in defense of the hijab and conservative values.

Pro-government rallies were held Sunday, with the main event taking place in Enghelab (Revolution) Square in central Tehran, where demonstrators voiced support for mandatory hijab laws.

“Martyrs died so that this hijab will be on our head,” said demonstrator Nafiseh, 28, adding that she was opposed to making the wearing of the hijab voluntary.

Another demonstrator, 21-year-old student Atyieh, called for “strong action against the people who are leading” the protests.

The main reformist group inside Iran, the Union of Islamic Iran People’s Party, however, has called for the repeal of the mandatory dress code.

Human rights groups based abroad have sought to shine light on the turmoil rocking Iran, citing their own sources in the country.

IHR reported on Sunday that an umbrella of Iranian teachers’ unions were calling on teachers and students to boycott classes on Monday and Wednesday in support of the protests.

Iranian authorities have yet to state the cause of death of Amini, who activists say died as a result of a blow to the head.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has said Amini was not beaten and that “we must wait for the final opinion of the medical examiner.”

A tightening crackdown has included the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and heavy deployments of security forces in Kurdish areas of western Iran, where the protests have been concentrated.

18 Journalists Arrested

As of Sunday, at least 18 journalists had been arrested during the unrest, including several who were taken into custody during early morning raids on their homes, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Protesters March Through Downtown Ottawa, Burn Headscarf

A CBC report said:

With the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody sparking demonstrations around the world, hundreds of people also took to the streets of Ottawa Sunday to protest against the Iranian government.

“This could have happened to [any] one of us,” said Taraneh, a protester who lived in Iran for about 30 years. CBC is withholding her last name due to her safety concerns.

Taraneh said she and her sister were once arrested by the morality police while in Iran and held for five or six hours.  She said she’s frustrated that Iranian women are forced to comply with the strict hijab requirements.

“The women in Iran are not free at all,” she said. “We are tired of this system.”

The protesters marched past Parliament Hill on Wellington Street, down Metcalfe Street and onto Queen Street, where they gathered to chant and burn a scarf in protest.

Police estimated about 1,000 people took part.

“It is not just a matter of hijab anymore. It is not a matter of the morality police forces anymore,” said organizer Rosa Kheirandish, who was born in Iran and moved to Canada in 2001.

“They just want the mandatory Islamic Republic to go.”

Kheirandish said she helped organize the protest so that other Iranians could claw back their freedom from the oppressive government — starting with freedom of religion.

“[They want] that same kind of freedom that we have here in Canada,” said Kheirandish. “I mean, thank God we have it here.”

She said she also hopes the protest raises awareness of what Iranians are facing.

Kheirandish fears that the internet disconnection will precede government violence.

Another protester, Lora Solaimani, said she was concerned internet outages may also impede Iranians’ ability to call to the international community for help.

“They have cut the internet so that we cannot actually see what is going on,” said Solaimani. “I think that needs international attention.”

Protestor Rahil Golipoor, a risk analyst for the federal government, said the oppression of human rights happening in Iran could have a harmful impact worldwide.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is a risk for the world,” Golipoor said, adding that the actions by the country’s morality police could influence other governments. “They are a virus starting in Iran, but they do not stay in Iran.”

Golipoor said she is demonstrating not just against Iran, but to send a global message against all religious and gender-based discrimination.

“We stand for the future of the world,” said Golipoor. “We do not stay silent for any dictator [or] religion.”




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