Iranian state media on Thursday acknowledged that at least 17 people were killed in anti-government protests that spread across the country. The riots were triggered by the death of a woman detained by the country’s so-called “moral police”, ostensibly for not covering her hair as required by Iran’s strict Islamic laws.
A charity operating in Iran raised the death toll to 31, but CBS News couldn’t verify the figure.
The moral police, which are specifically tasked with enforcing Iran’s strict Islamic dress code and other religious edicts, arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last week while her family was visiting the capital, Tehran.
The special unit accused her of wearing “unsuitable clothes”. She died in detention after three days, with officials claiming she suffered a heart attack. Critics believe she was beaten after an image of her bruised, bloodied and intubated body emerged.
“Iranian women, according to the law that was imposed in 1981 after the [Islamic] revolution, they are required to cover their hair and dress modestly, “Dr. Sanam Vakil, a Middle Eastern policy expert and Iranian specialist at the Chatham House think tank in London, told CBS News.” Over the past 40 years, Iranian women have pushed against this mandatory requirement of the veil, and there is a moral police who guard the streets, bring women, punish them “.
Amini’s death sparked Iran’s largest mass protests since at least 2019, when public anger over skyrocketing gas prices drew huge crowds to the streets.
These new protests have extended from the Iranian Kurdistan region, where Amini lived, to at least 50 cities and towns across the country, according to a human rights watchdog and other opposition groups operating in Iran.
Kurdistan Governor Ismail Zareikosha said earlier this week that three people were killed in his province, but insisted Iranian security forces were not responsible, blaming “Iran’s enemies” instead. .
Internet access in parts of the country was cut off on Thursday, the day after Iranian Communications Minister Issa Zarepour warned that a similar step could be taken amid the protests.
“Due to security concerns and ongoing debates in the country, restrictions on the internet can be decided and enforced by the security apparatus, but overall we have not had any reduction in bandwidth,” Zarepour said from the semi- official ISNA News Agency.
Opposition broadcaster Manoto TV said Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, had removed a large number of videos from its Instagram page relating to the protests. The company also said that Instagram removed a video message from Reza Pahlavi, the former crown prince of Iran in exile, addressing the protesters.
During the 2019 protests, before the crackdown by government security forces, internet access also slowed or was cut off.As of Thursday, videos and images of defiance and protest were still being uploaded to social media, showing people destroying symbols of government authority, including police cars and water cannon trucks and disfiguring images of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.
Some women protested by taking off their scarves in public and burning them on bonfires. Others have cut their hair in public, in front of cheering crowds.
“It shows the level of public anger. People are just fed up and trying,” Vakil, of Chatham House, told CBS News. “This is a generation of Iranians who are pushing back.”