People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 21, 2022. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iranian authorities said three people had been killed on Tuesday as anger at the death of a woman detained by the morality police fuelled protests for a fifth day and fresh restrictions were placed on social media.

Official sources now say a total of seven people have been killed since protests erupted on Saturday over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan who died last week after being arrested in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”.

Reports from Kurdish rights group Hengaw said seven protesters had been killed by security forces, three of them on Tuesday, in or near the Kurdish areas in the northwest where unrest has been particularly intense. Officials have denied that security forces have killed protesters.

With the protests spreading to over 50 cities and towns, authorities restricted access to the internet, according to accounts from Hengaw, residents, and internet shutdown observatory NetBlocks.

NetBlocks and residents said access had been restricted to Instagram – the only major social media platform that Iran usually allows and which has millions of users.

WhatsApp users said they could only send text, not pictures, while Hengaw said access to the internet had been cut in Kurdistan province – a move that would hinder videos being shared from a region where the authorities have previously suppressed unrest by the Kurdish minority.

Meta Platforms (META.O), the owner of Instagram and WhatsApp, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amini’s death has unleashed anger over issues including freedoms in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions. Women have waved and burnt their veils during protests, with some cutting their hair in public.

After beginning on Saturday at Amini’s funeral in the Kurdish region, protests have engulfed much of the country, prompting confrontations as security forces have sought to suppress them.

A top aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei paid condolences to Amini’s family this week, promising to follow up on the case and saying Khamenei was pained by her death.

The official IRNA news agency said a “police assistant” died from injuries on Tuesday in the southern city of Shiraz after “some people clashed with police officers”. An official quoted by IRNA said 15 protesters were arrested in Shiraz.

In Kermanshah, the city prosecutor said two people had been killed on Tuesday in riots, blaming armed dissidents because the victims were “killed by weapons not used by the security apparatus,” the semi-official Fars news agency cited prosecutor Shahram Karami as saying.

The Kurdistan police chief, in comments to the semi-official Tasnim news agency, confirmed four deaths earlier this week in the province. He said they were shot with a type of bullet not used by the security forces, saying “gangs” wanted to blame police and security officials.

Hengaw said 450 people had been injured in addition to the seven Kurdish protesters it said had died as a result of “direct fire” from government forces in the last four days. Reuters could not independently confirm the casualty reports.

Amini fell into a coma and died while waiting with other women held by the morality police, who enforce strict rules in Iran requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes in public.

Her father said she had no health problems and that she suffered bruises to her legs in custody. He holds the police responsible for her death. The police have denied harming her.

The U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights has called for an impartial investigation into her death and allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

‘DEATH TO THE DICTATOR’

A senior security official told Reuters that security forces have been ordered to curb the protests. An activist in Iran’s Kurdistan province said “we are getting warnings from the security organisations to end the protests or face jail.”

Videos shared on social media have shown demonstrators damaging symbols of the Islamic Republic and confronting security forces.

One showed a man scaling the facade of the town hall in the northern city of Sari and tearing down an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution.

On Wednesday in Tehran, hundreds shouted “death to the dictator” at Tehran University, a video shared by 1500tasvir showed.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

State media and officials have depicted the unrest as riots by “anti-revolutionary elements”.

Members of the Basij, a militia under the umbrella of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, held their own rallies in Tehran on Wednesday. “The morality police is just an excuse, what they target is the regime itself,” they chanted in a video posted on 1500tasvir.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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