Protests have raged across Iran for the fourth day in a row as authorities have confirmed that three people have been killed amid unrest over the death of a young woman in custody.
Most important points:
- Iran’s government accused foreign agents and unspecified terrorists of inciting the violence
- Three foreigners arrested during rallies in Tehran
- A Kurdish human rights group said three people were killed when security forces opened fire
The death last week of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the vice squad for ‘inappropriate clothing’, unleashed a torrent of dormant anger over a host of issues, including rights, security and an economy teetering from international sanctions.
It is one of the worst unrest in Iran since street fighting over water shortages last year.
The Iranian government accused foreign agents and unnamed terrorists of inciting the violence.
Tehran Governor Mohsen Mansouri said three “foreign agents” were arrested during overnight rallies, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA.
In an apparent effort to ease tensions, an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, expressed her condolences to Ms Amini’s family and said Mr Khamenei was affected and pained by her death.
“All institutions will take action to defend the rights that have been violated,” Abdolreza Pourzahabi, Mr Khamenei’s representative in Kurdistan Province, said during a visit to Ms Amini’s home, state media reported.
Demonstrations continued in Tehran late on Tuesday and police fired tear gas, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Kurdish human rights group Hengaw said three people were killed in Kurdistan on Monday when security forces opened fire.
Mr Pourzahabi confirmed that three people were killed but said the deaths were suspicious and did not say who was responsible.
“A citizen of [the city of] Divandarreh was murdered with a weapon not used by the armed forces. Terrorist groups want to kill,” Esmail Zarei Koosha said in comments from the semi-official Fars news agency.
Ms 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.
Mrs Amini’s father has repeatedly said that his daughter had no health problems, adding that she had bruises on her legs.
He held the police responsible for her death.
Amini’s death unleashes anger over ‘tidal wave’ of other problems
Demonstrations broke out in Kurdistan and spread to several other provinces in northwestern Iran on Monday and Tuesday.
State media reported “limited demonstrations” in several cities, where protesters claimed to be chanting anti-government slogans, throwing rocks at police vehicles and damaging public property.
The most violent unrest took place in the Kurdistan region.
Videos posted on social media show demonstrations in numerous cities, with women waving their headscarves and demonstrators against security forces.
The protests, sparked by Ms Amini’s death, “also shed light on the tidal wave of problems ordinary Iranians face every day related to security and freedom,” said Sanam Vakil of the Chatham House think tank.
“I don’t think this is an existential challenge for the regime… because the system in Iran has a monopoly on violence, a well-honed security strategy that it’s already implementing,” she added.
Protesters marched through Tehran’s Grand Bazaar on Monday chanting “Mahsa Amini, Rest in Peace,” according to a video posted on Twitter.
During a major protest in Tehran, a mob of protesters in black clothes shouted, “Oh, the day we will be armed,” according to another video posted on Twitter.
Reuters could not verify the videos.
Protesters took to the streets elsewhere in Tehran to chant anti-Khamenei slogans and police fired tear gas to disperse them, Fars news agency reported in a rare confession from state-affiliated media to the extent of the unrest.
Hengaw said there were protests in 13 cities on Monday and 250 people had been arrested.
In Gilan province, police have arrested 22 people for vandalizing public property, the deputy police commander said.