Iran’s president said on Thursday that “acts of chaos” are not acceptable, in a warning to protesters who have taken to the streets across the country to vent their anger over the death of a woman in the custody of morality police.
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Ebrahim Raisi added that he had ordered an investigation into the case of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died last week after being arrested for wearing “inappropriate clothing”.
“There is freedom of speech in Iran … but acts of chaos are unacceptable,” said Raisi, who is facing the biggest protests in the Islamic Republic since 2019.
Women have featured prominently in the demonstrations, waving and burning their veils, with some cutting their hair in public in a direct challenge to clerical leaders.
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards called on the judiciary to prosecute “those who spread false news and rumours”, in an apparent bid to defuse nationwide protests.
Protesters in Tehran and other Iranian cities burned police stations and vehicles as public outrage showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces being attacked.
In a statement, the guard expressed sympathy with the family and relatives of Amini.
“We have requested the judiciary to identify those who are spreading fake news and rumors on social media as well as on the streets and are endangering the psychological safety of society and to deal with them decisively,” said the watchdog, which has cracked down on protests . In the past.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry also sought to break the momentum of the demonstrations, saying it is illegal to participate in protests and that anyone who participates will be prosecuted, Iranian news websites reported.
Raisi said the extensive coverage given to Amini’s case was the result of “double standards”.
“Every day in various countries, including the United States, we see men and women die in police encounters, but there is no sensitivity about the cause and handling of this violence,” he said.
‘Maintain security and peace’
Pro-government protests are planned for Friday and some marchers have already taken to the streets, Iranian media said.
Chief Justice Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has ordered swift action in the case of the rioters to “maintain the safety and peace of citizens,” Tasnim News Agency reported.
The United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police on Thursday, accusing them of abuse and violence against Iranian women and violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters, the US Treasury Department said.
Most of the protests have been concentrated in Iran’s Kurdish-populated northwest, but have spread to the capital and at least 50 cities nationwide, where police have used force to disperse protesters. Amini was from the province of Kurdistan.
A new mobile internet outage was recorded in the country, internet monitoring group Netblocks wrote on Twitter, in a possible sign that authorities fear the protests will intensify.
A member of an Iranian pro-government paramilitary organization, the Basij, was stabbed to death in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Wednesday, two semi-official Iranian news agencies reported on Thursday. There was no official confirmation of the death.
Police stations are burning
Tasnim also said another member of the Basij was killed on Wednesday in the city of Qazvin from a gunshot wound inflicted by “rioters and gangs”.
Nour news, a media outlet affiliated with a top security agency, shared a video of an army officer confirming the death of a soldier in the unrest, bringing the total reported number of security force members killed in the unrest to five.
A Mazandaran official said 76 members of the security forces were injured in the province during the unrest, while the Kurdistan police chief said more than 100 security forces were injured.
In the northeast, protesters shouted: “We want to die, we want to die, but we will get Iran back,” near a police station that was set on fire, a video posted on the Twitter account 1500tasvir showed. The account focuses on protests in Iran and has around 100,000 followers. Reuters could not verify the footage.
Amini’s death has reignited anger over such issues as restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran – including strict dress codes for women – and an economy reeling from financial sanctions.
Iran’s clerical rulers fear a revival of the 2019 protests that erupted over gasoline price hikes, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic’s history. Reuters reported that 1,500 people were killed.
Protesters this week also expressed anger at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Mojtaba, may you die and not become the supreme leader,” a crowd was seen chanting in Tehran, referring to Khamenei’s son, who some believe could succeed his father at the top of Iran’s political establishment.
Reuters could not verify the video.
Reports from the Kurdish rights group Hengaw, which Reuters also could not confirm, said the death toll in Kurdish areas had risen to 15 and the number of wounded to 733. Iranian officials have denied that security forces have killed protesters, suggesting they may been shot. of armed dissidents.