PARIS: Tensions have grown between Iran and Western powers over the Islamic republic’s lethal crackdown on 10 nights of protests driven by outrage over the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police, reports AFP.
At least 41 people have been killed and more than 1,000 arrested, officials say, in the unrest sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman after she was detained for allegedly breaching strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.
Woman, Life, Freedom! has been the rallying cry as women have taken off and burnt their hijabs in bonfires or symbolically cut off their hair, cheered on by crowds.
About 450 rioters have been arrested in just one province, Mazandaran, its chief prosecutor Mohammad Karimi said according to the official IRNA news agency, two days after over 700 arrests were reported in neighbouring Gilan.
Over the past few days, rioters have attacked government buildings and damaged public property in several parts of Mazandaran under the direction of foreign anti-revolution agents, Karimi said.
The Tasnim news agency published around 20 photos of riot leaders, including women, taken in the holy shrine city of Qom, saying security forces were calling on citizens to identify them and inform the authorities.
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.
Tehran has 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.
In Iran’s biggest protests in almost three years, security forces have used batons and water canon but also fired bird shot and live rounds, rights groups say, against the protesters who have hurled rocks, torched police cars and set public buildings ablaze.
The IHR rights group said Sunday at least 57 protesters have been killed, but noted its reporting was limited by internet blackouts and the blocking of WhatsApp and Instagram following earlier bans on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other services.
There were fears the violence could escalate further after judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei spoke of the need for decisive action without leniency against riot leaders, echoing a warning by ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
Solidarity protests have been held in cities worldwide, and tensions flared into street clashes in Paris and London at the weekend, where crowds tried to reach Iran’s embassies.
In London, 12 people were arrested and five officers seriously injured, the Metropolitan Police said, after masonry, bottles and other projectiles were thrown and a number of officers were injured, some with broken bones.
In Paris, thousands took to the streets, many chanting Death to the Islamic republic, before riot police fired tear gas to prevent protesters from marching on Tehran’s diplomatic mission, AFP reporters and eye-witnesses said.
Iran has blamed foreign plots for the unrest and accused its arch enemy the United States and its allies of stoking the demonstrations.
US President Joe Biden last week saluted the 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.
Iran’s government has organised large rallies in defence of the mandatory hijab rules, including one on Sunday in Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Square.
Martyrs died so that this hijab will be on our head, said female demonstrator Nafiseh, 28.
The main reformist group inside Iran, the Union of Islamic Iran People’s Party, however, has called for the repeal of the mandatory dress code.
IHR reported Sunday that Iranian teachers’ unions were calling on staff and students to boycott classes on Monday and Wednesday in support of the protests.