Five people were killed in Iran’s Kurdish region on Monday when security forces opened fire during protests over the d*ath of a woman in police custody, a Kurdish rights group said, on the third day of unrest following an incident that sparked national anger.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdistan province, fell into a coma and died after she was arrested in Tehran last week by vice police, sparking protests in many neighborhoods including the capital.
Two of the people were killed when security forces opened fire on protesters in the Kurdish town of Saqez, Amini’s hometown, the Hengaw Human Rights Organization said on Twitter.
He said two other people were killed in the town of Divandarreh “by direct fire” from security forces, and a fifth was killed in Dehgolan, also in the Kurdish region.
Reuters could not independently verify the information.
There has been no official confirmation of the d*aths. The official IRNA news agency said there had been “limited” protests in a number of cities in seven provinces which were dispersed by police.
State TV said a number of protesters had been arrested but dismissed “some social media d*ath claims” by showing two injured youths who denied reports they had been killed.
In nationwide condemnations of Amini’s d*ath, the Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini reached nearly 2 million mentions on Twitter.
Police say Amini fell ill while waiting with other women detained by the vice squad, which enforces strict rules in the Islamic republic requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose clothing in public.
But her father repeatedly said his daughter had no health problems, adding that she suffered bruising on her legs. He held the police responsible for his d*ath.
Protests have been most intense in the Kurdish region, where authorities have already cracked down on unrest from the Kurdish minority numbering 8-10 million.
Hengaw said 75 people were injured on Monday.
Video posted to Twitter by Hengaw showed protesters throwing rocks as a man was heard saying “there is a war in Divandarreh” and accusing police of the att*ck.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.
Internet blocking observatory NetBlocks reported on Monday an “almost total interruption of internet connectivity in Sanandaj” – the provincial capital of the Kurdish region -, linking it to the protests, according to its Twitter account.
While Hengaw reported lethal force by security forces in the Kurdish region, there were no immediate reports of d*aths during protests in other parts of Iran.
Videos on social media showed protests in Tehran and spread to cities including Rasht, Mashhad and Isfahan.
A video shared by the 1500tasvir Twitter account, which posts images sent by its 70,000 followers, shows police cars with shattered windows in Tehran, as a nearby security force vehicle fires water cannons at protesters .
“Stone throwers advanced against the police. Death to the dictator!” a woman can be heard saying.
He also shared footage showing what he said was a protest at a university in Tehran against the paramilitary Basij, a militia.
Reuters could not independently verify the videos.
It marks some of the worst unrest in Iran since street clashes that began in late 2021 over water shortages.
The United States has demanded accountability for Amini’s d*ath.
“The d*ath of Mahsa Amini from injuries sustained while in police custody for wearing an ‘inappropriate’ hijab is an appalling and flagrant affront to human rights,” a White House spokesperson said.
France condemned his arrest “and the violence that caused his d*ath”, the foreign ministry said, calling for a transparent investigation.
Earlier on Monday, Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi said ‘cowardly charges’ had been leveled against the police, that Amini had not suffered any physical injuries and that the police had ‘done everything’ to keep her alive.
“This incident was unfortunate for us and we wish never to witness such incidents,” Rahimi said.
Police released CCTV footage apparently supporting their version of events. Reuters could not authenticate the video.
Violators of Iranian Sharia, or Islamic law, and hijab rules risk fines or arrest. But activists have recently urged women to remove the veil despite radical leaders’ crackdown on “immoral behaviour”. Read the full story
Amini’s d*ath could raise tensions between the establishment and the Kurdish minority.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have suppressed unrest in the country’s Kurdish regions for decades, and many Kurdish activists have been sentenced to long prison terms or d*ath.
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