PARIS: Iran’s police warned on Wednesday they would confront “with all their might” women-led protests that erupted nearly two weeks ago over the death of Mahsa Amini in custody despite growing calls for restraint.
Dozens of people have been killed since demonstrations erupted when the 22-year-old Kurdish woman died after being arrested in Tehran for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict rules on headscarves and modest clothing.
Widespread protests took place for a 12th straight night on Tuesday, according to opposition media based outside Iran despite internet restrictions designed to impede gatherings and prevent images of the crackdown getting out.
Women have burned their scarves and symbolically cut their hair in protest at Amini’s death and the strict dress code, in solidarity rallies from New York to Istanbul.
Riot police in black body armor are seen shooting up at apartment windows in Tehran’s Ekbatan Town, in footage shared overnight by Radio Farda, a United States-funded Persian station based in the Czech Republic’s capital Prague.
“Today, the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and some rioters seek to disrupt the order, security and comfort of the nation using any pretext,” the police command said, quoted by the Fars news agency.
“Police officers will oppose with all their might the conspiracies of counter-revolutionaries and hostile elements, and deal firmly with those who disrupt public order and security anywhere in the country,” it added.
The statement came only hours after the United Nations said Antonio Guterres, its secretary general, had called on Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi not to use “disproportionate force” against protesters.
In a meeting during last week’s UN General Assembly, Guterres “stressed to President Raisi the need to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising fatalities, including women and children, related to the protests,” he added.
He said Guterres “calls on the security forces to refrain from using unnecessary or disproportionate force and appeals to all to exercise utmost restraint to avoid further escalation.”
‘Blow to the head’
Fars said on Tuesday that about 60 people had been killed since Amini’s death on September 16, up from the official toll of 41 authorities reported last Saturday.
But the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said the crackdown has killed at least 76 people.
Officials said on Monday they had made more than 1,200 arrests, including of activists, lawyers and journalists.
A cousin of Amini said she had been visiting Tehran with her family when she encountered the notorious morality police and died after a “violent blow to the head.”
Amini, whose Kurdish first name is Jhina, was arrested along with her brother and female relatives after leaving an underground station despite being “dressed normally,” Erfan Salih Mortezaee said.
“The police officer told (her brother): ‘We are going to take her in, instill the rules in her and teach her how to wear the hijab and how to dress,'” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
“Jhina’s death has opened the doors of popular anger,” said Mortezaee, who joined the Iranian Kurdish nationalist group Komala after leaving the Islamic republic a year ago.
Shah’s son hails ‘women’s revolution’
Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, speaks during an interview in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. AFP PHOTO
In an interview with AFP, the son of Iran’s late shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi hailed the protests as a landmark revolution by women and urged the world to add to the pressure on the clerical leadership.
Reza Pahlavi, whose father was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, called for greater preparation for a future Iranian system that is secular and democratic.
“It is truly in modern times, in my opinion, the first revolution for the women, by the women, with the support of Iranian men, sons, brothers and fathers,” said Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the Washington, DC area. . “It has come to the point, as the Spaniards would say: basta — we’ve had enough.”
On Tuesday, authorities in Iran arrested the daughter of ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for “inciting rioters,” the Tasnim news agency reported.
The crackdown has drawn condemnation from around the world.
US think-tank Freedom House called on “other governments to stand with these courageous protesters and hold Iranian officials to account for their abuses.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Iran to “end its use of violence against women for exercising what should be a fundamental freedom.”
“We stand with all those who are exercising the universal right to peaceful protest,” he said.