Protests against the death of a young Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini, killed by the “morality police” for failing to keep her head properly covered, grew and spread across Iran on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The death toll from the protests stood at seven on Wednesday morning, with Iranian officials claiming police officers were among those killed and injured.
“On Tuesday evening some people clashed with police officers and as a result one of the police assistants was killed. In this incident four other police officers were injured in Shiraz,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.
It is the first time we have seen Iranian protesters fighting back in this way. It's another "first of its kind" in the recent protests in Iran. And it's not just this video, there are dozens of them something has fundamentally changed in the protests in Iran. pic.twitter.com/OYmpqPK7ig
— ERSHAD ALIJANI (@ErshadAlijani) September 20, 2022
Kurdish groups challenged the official narrative on Wednesday, claiming more protesters have been killed than the authorities will admit. These groups also accused Iran of cutting off Internet service to the Kurdistan region, in a bid to suppress the growing protest movement.
Iranian communications minister Issa Zarepour was quoted by state media on Wednesday warning that “restrictions to the Internet” could be imposed across more of Iran as unrest grows. Zarepour quickly denied these reports, claiming he was misquoted and insisting there have only been “temporary restrictions in some places and at some hours, which have been resolved.”
Outside monitoring groups noted total Internet blockages were indeed imposed in western Iran, despite Zarepour’s denials, and their timing corresponds with the first Iranian deployments of lethal force against Kurdish demonstrators. Also contrary to Zarepour’s statements, government restrictions on social media were still in force on Wednesday:
⚠️ Confirmed: Access to Instagram, one of the last available social media platforms in #Iran, has been restricted amid protests over the death of #MahsaAmini; live metrics show frontends and CDNs now disrupted on multiple internet providers
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) September 21, 2022
Iranian opposition groups said on Tuesday the protests have spread to “dozens of cities,” expanding far beyond the Kurdistan region, where outrage over a woman being fatally beaten in Tehran for not wearing a hijab was mixed with suspicions of anti-Kurdish racism:
WOW! Chants tonight in Tehran:
"This is the year Seyyed Ali [Khamenei] will be overthrown"
Day 5 of #IranProtests by a nation yearning for regime change. The MEK reports protests in dozens of cities
— M. Hanif Jazayeri (@HanifJazayeri) September 20, 2022
Demonstrators are determined to defy the hijab law in overwhelming numbers, in some cases dancing in public (another activity forbidden to women under Iranian religious law) and burning their discarded headscarves.
Unprecedented scenes in Iran: woman sits on top of utility box and cuts her hair in main square in Kerman to protest death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police. People clap their hands and chant “Death to the dictator.” #مهسا_امینی pic.twitter.com/2oyuKV80Ac
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) September 20, 2022
These women in #Iran’s northern city of Sari are dancing and burning their headscarves… anti-regime protests have now spread to dozens of cities from north to south, east to west… all triggered by the death of #MahsaAmini while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. pic.twitter.com/BBDvgC5L1w
— Rana Rahimpour (@ranarahimpour) September 20, 2022
“While we were waving our headscarves in the sky I felt so emotional to be surrounded and protected by other men. It feels great to see this unity. I hope the world supports us,” a woman in the central city of Isfahan told the BBC on Wednesday.
The BBC cited ominous comments from Iranian officials laying the groundwork for an even more brutal crackdown:
Tehran Governor Mohsen Mansouri tweeted on Tuesday that the protests were “fully organized with the agenda to create unrest”, while state TV alleged that Ms. Amini’s death was being used as an “excuse” by Kurdish separatists and critics of the establishment.
Sky News on Wednesday reported “solidarity” demonstrations in Istanbul, Toronto, and Berlin, with marchers emulating the Iranian women who defiantly cut their hair in public and brandishing photos of Mahsa Amini.
Pictures from today's protest in #Berlin against the killing of Zhina (Masha) Amini by the Islamic Regime in Iran and in solidarity with the struggle of Iranian women against compulsory Hijab. pic.twitter.com/PTwTEQMxPV
— Majid Al-Bunni (@Majid_Albunni) September 19, 2022
The Associated Press saw “thick clouds of tear gas” rising over Tehran on Wednesday, and speculated it was only a matter of time before the murderous Basij militia – a gang of thugs fanatically loyal to the theocracy – is unleashed against demonstrators.
Human rights activists wondered how any civilized nation could continue with increasingly risible efforts to resolve the Iran nuclear deal while Iran is beating women to death for not wearing their headscarves tightly enough, and might be preparing for a bloodbath in the streets:
.@EmmanuelMacron How can you smile with and legitimize a terrorist regime that is right now shooting at its own people in order to crush mass protests across Iran for women's rights, human dignity and freedom? #Mahsa_Amini #بیشرف pic.twitter.com/X6QBiykO0v
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) September 21, 2022
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said the violent crackdown on “protesters demanding accountability for a woman’s death in police custody” only reinforces the “systematic nature of government rights abuses with impunity” in Iran.
Acting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif said she was alarmed by both Amini’s death and “the violent response by security forces to ensuing protests.”
“The international community shouldn’t be silent observers of the crimes the Islamic Republic commits against its own people,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Iran Human Rights (IHR), a group based in Oslo, Norway.
Even a member of the Iranian parliament, Jala Rashidi Koochi, made a rare break with the regime by publicly stating the Gasht-e Ershad morality police were “wrong” to assault Amini, and “the main problem is that some people resist accepting the truth.”