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 three-decade rule of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, in footage shared by Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
“Woman, Life, Freedom!” the crowds have chanted as female protesters have defiantly burnt their hijabs in bonfires and blazing rubbish dumpsters — a rallying cry that has been echoed at solidarity protests worldwide, including in London and Paris on the weekend.
Iranian riot police in black body armor 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 Khomenei, in recent video footage published by AFP.
In Iran’s biggest protests in almost three years, security forces have used water canon 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 neighboring 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, was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA, charging that they were steered by “foreign anti-revolutionary agents”.
Tehran police have been deployed “24 hours a day”, 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.
Many police officers “did not sleep last night and the nights before … and they must be thanked,” said Ejei, who earlier stressed “the need for decisive action without leniency” against the protest instigators. Several security officers have also died, according to Iranian media.
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 home town of Saqqez “despite a heavy military presence”, and there were reports a 10-year-old girl being hospitalized after she was shot 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, refusing to attend lessons and urging their professors to join.
The European Union has slammed Iran, charging that “the widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protestors is unjustifiable and unacceptable”, in a statement by its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday.
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 program.
Germany on Monday said it had summoned the Iranian ambassador over the crackdown on the protests.
“I can confirm that we have summoned the Iranian ambassador… and the conversation will take place this afternoon,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in Berlin.
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”.