Pro-government marchers took to the streets of Iran Friday and called to execute people protesting after a young woman died while in police custody for improperly wearing her hijab.
The Iranian government took steps to stomp out the protests as civil unrest raged in the wake of the suspicious death of Mahsa Amini, 22 – with the regime disrupting internet service and reportedly arresting the journalist who brought the case international attention.
The supposedly spontaneous pro-regime counterprotests in Tehran and other cities came after a week’s worth of clashes that has left as many as 35 people dead.
The pro-government demonstrators called the anti-government protesters “Israel’s soldiers” and shouted “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” while the Iranian Republic blamed foreign influence for stoking the unrest, the Guardian reported, citing state TV.
“Offenders of the Quran must be executed,” some counterprotesters chanted, the Guardian said.
Amini died Sept. 16, three days after she was arrested by the country’s morality police because her traditional Islamic headscarf didn’t entirely cover her hair — a violation of Iran’s strict dress code for women. Officials claimed she dropped dead from a heart attack, although reports emerged she had been beaten – and possibly tortured — while in custody.
Her death sparked protests in at least 13 cities across the country, already stretched by western sanctions. Viral images showed protesters faced with fire and tear gas from police, with women demonstrating by removing their hijabs and in some cases even torching them in the streets.
One video showed riot police apparently shooting as protesters ran and yelled, “Oh my God, they’re killing people!”
The situation also led to the Biden administration imposing new sanctions on the morality police and other Iranian officials, with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen calling the death “another act of brutality” by the regime against its own people.
The Iranian government has taken action of its own as the unrest continues. It partially blacked out internet access and issued restrictions for apps like WhatsApp and Instagram in an apparent effort to block protesters from organizing rallies.
The US Treasury Department announced Friday it would allow tech firms to expand in Iran and boost Internet access after news of the internet disruption circulated.
Iran authorities have also arrested at least 11 journalists, with some picked up in “post-midnight raids” of their homes, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. These included Niloofar Hamedi of Shardh Daily, who was credited for reporting from Amini’s hospital bedside, CPJ said in a statement, citing sources.
Photographer Yalda Moaiery claimed to have been beaten and arrested covering the protests, the committee stated.
It isn’t clear how many people have been arrested but the number is likely in the hundreds – with 211 taken into custody in the northern Gilan province alone. State media reported 35 deaths related to the clashes as of Friday, but it wasn’t clear how that number was tallied.
The morality police have been cracking down on the female dress code in the year since hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected president last year. Raisi, in New York for the UN General Assembly, told reporters Amini’s death would be investigated if it “was due to negligence,” the Guardian reported.
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