Iranian police warned on Wednesday they would face “with all their might” the 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 violating the Islamic Republic’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.
According to opposition media outside Iran, widespread protests took place on Tuesday for the 12th straight night, despite internet restrictions aimed at hampering gatherings and preventing images of the crackdown from being released.
Women have burned their scarves and symbolically cut their hair at solidarity rallies from New York to Istanbul to protest Amini’s death and the strict dress code.
Riot police in black body armor fire on apartment windows in Tehran’s Ekbatan town, in footage shared overnight by Radio Farda – a US-funded Persian broadcaster based in Prague.
“Today, the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran and some rioters are trying to disrupt the order, security and comfort of the nation under any pretext,” the police command said, quoted by the Fars news agency.
“Police officers will use all their might to oppose the conspiracies of counter-revolutionaries and hostile elements, and will take decisive action against those who are disrupting public order and security across the country.”
The statement came just hours after the United Nations said its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had urged Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi not to use “disproportionate force” against protesters.
At a meeting during the UN General Assembly last week, Guterres “stressed to President Raisi the need to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” the UN chief’s spokesman said.
“We are increasingly concerned by reports of rising deaths, including women and children, linked to the protests,” said spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
He said Guterres “calls on security forces not to use unnecessary or disproportionate force and on everyone to exercise utmost restraint to avoid further escalation.”
– “Blow on the head” –
The Fars news agency said on Tuesday that “about 60” people had been killed since Amini’s death on September 16, compared to the official figure of 41 authorities reported on Saturday.
But the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said the crackdown killed at least 76 people.
Officials said Monday they had made more than 1,200 arrests, including activists, lawyers and journalists.
A cousin of Amini said she was visiting Tehran with her family when she encountered the notorious morality police and died after being “violently hit to the head”.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name is Jhina, was arrested along with her brother and female relatives after exiting a subway station despite being “dressed normally”, Erfan Salih Mortezaee said.
“The policeman said (her brother): ‘We will take her in, teach her the rules and teach her how to wear the hijab and how to dress,'” he told AFP in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan.
“Jhina’s death has opened the floodgates to popular anger,” said Mortezaee, who joined Iran’s Kurdish nationalist group Komala after leaving the Islamic Republic a year ago.
– Shah’s son applauds “women’s revolution” –
In an interview with AFP, the son of the late Iranian Shah hailed the protests as a landmark women’s revolution and urged the world to increase pressure on clerical leadership.
Reza Pahlavi, whose father was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, called for better preparation for a future Iranian system that would be secular and democratic.
“In my opinion, it’s really the first revolution in modern times for women, by women — with the support of Iranian men, sons, brothers and fathers,” said Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the Washington area.
“It got to the point, as the Spaniards would say, that’s it – we’ve had enough.”
On Tuesday, Iranian authorities arrested ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s daughter for “inciting riots,” Tasnim news agency reported.
The move has drawn condemnation around the world.
US think tank Freedom House called on “other governments to join these brave protesters and hold Iranian officials accountable for their mistreatment.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Iran to “end the use of violence against women for exercising what should be a fundamental freedom.”
“We stand with all those who exercise the universal right to protest peacefully,” he said.