At least 17 people have died in Iran during days of intensifying protests over a young woman’s death following her arrest by the morality police.
Among the victims were both security forces and demonstrators, Iranian state media reported Thursday without providing further details on the circumstances.
There were again violent clashes on Wednesday night. Videos, which could not be verified, purported to show live ammunition being fired at the protesters.
The internet has been massively restricted and mobile networks in particular have largely been shut down. Instagram, which was one of the last free social networks, has also been blocked. There was little coverage of the demonstrations on state media websites.
Prominent Iranians inside and outside the country expressed solidarity with the protest movement, which continues to draw people into the streets.
“Don’t be afraid of strong women. Maybe the day will come when they are your only army,” Iranian football star Ali Karimi wrote on Twitter.
The protests were triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
She was arrested on September 13 ago by the morality police for violating the strict Islamic dress code.
Iran’s strict interpretation of the Koran requires women to cover their hair and almost all skin, except their faces.
What exactly happened to Amini after her arrest is unclear, but she fell into a coma and died in hospital on Friday.
Critics accuse the morality police of using violence. The police reject the accusations. Since then, large demonstrating have been held across the country.
Whatever the truth, her death has unleashed a wave of rage against the country’s theocratic government, with some calling for open revolution and many others simply tired of the government intruding into their personal lives.
Amnesty International said an “independent international mechanism of enquiry and accountability” was needed to address the widespread impunity in Iran.
“The Iranian government has been systematically violating fundamental human rights for years. Arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial executions and the brutal suppression of protests are encouraged by rampant impunity,” said Katja Müller-Fahlbusch, a Middle East expert for the group.
British-Iranian journalist Christiane Amanpour, the long-time correspondent for CNN, reported that she had planned an interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
However, she said, Raisi did not show up at the appointed time.
Instead, a member of Raisi’s staff arrived 40 minutes later and said the president suggested that Amanpour wear a headscarf. She refused, Amanpour tweeted.
No Iranian president before had requested wearing a headscarf when interviewed outside Iran, she said. Raisi’s aide had said the headscarf was a matter of respect and had referred to the situation in Iran.