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According to three Iran-focused human rights groups, anti-government protests broke out in cities across Iran on Monday in response to the death of a young woman in the custody of the country’s vice squad, in which security forces fired into crowds in the northwest and killed four men.
the demonstrations, mainly led by women, broke out in more than a dozen cities and on university campuses in Tehran. The trigger was the death on Friday of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested three days earlier in Tehran for allegedly violating Iran’s hijab law, which requires women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting robes.
Women who protested Monday took off their headscarves and waved them defiantly. In Tehranshouted men and women “we will fight and take back our country,” including students on campuses where fears of arrest, which could lead to a lifelong suspension from higher education, have kept dissent for at least a year.
In Ms Amini’s northwest home province of Kurdistan, where protests have flared up since her funeral on Saturday, four men were shot dead in three cities, the Kurdish Human Rights Group said, which posted their names and photos online. Eighty-five other people were injured, including three children, and 200 were arrested, the human rights organization said.
In at least a dozen cities in Kurdistan province, most shops have been closed after Kurdish opposition political groups jointly called for strikes, human rights groups said.
“We are witnessing a nationwide response, truly like a George Floyd moment for national conscience that can no longer tolerate the violence and logic of the ruling class in killing ordinary citizens,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Humans. Rights in Iran, an interest group in New York.
Like previous waves of nationwide protests in Iran, the demonstrations were sparked by a specific event – the death of Ms Amini – but quickly expanded into a long litany of grievances, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republicaccording to videos shared by Iranian journalists.
The protests reflected the built-up frustration of many Iranians struggling with oppressive regulations and economic hardship, with little hope for meaningful change. Such widespread anti-government insurgency has been suppressed in the past, with the deployment of security forces killing, injuring and arresting protesters.
Ms Amini’s death sparked outrage among social, religious and political factions. Even leading clerics and other government supporters called for the abolition of the vice squad and condemned the government for using violence as a means of enforcing religious rules.
The morality police have said Ms Amini died of a heart attack and denied allegations that she was beaten to the head when she was taken in a van to a detention center.
Mrs Amini’s relatives have told the press that she was perfectly healthy; that security officials had not shared her autopsy report with them; and that officials had pressured the family to bury her in the middle of the night and keep quiet about her death.
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Many of Monday’s demonstrations were directed against the heart of the regime: its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. protesters sang before his death and the demise of his son Mojtaba, seen as a potential successor, according to videos posted on social media and on the BBC’s Persian news service.
In the northern city of Rasht, protesters took over a street, shouting “death to the dictator” and “death to the oppressorwhether it be the shah or the supreme leader.” Several women took off their headgear and burned them to protest the hijab law. videos posted on social media and showed BBC Persian. Police responded by firing tear gas.
Mr Khamenei has been ill in recent weeks, according to people familiar with his condition. He appeared at his residence on Saturday for a religious ceremony, but spoke only briefly, in a muffled and shaky voice.
Iranian media reported that President Ebrahim Raisi ordered an investigation into Ms Amini’s death and called her father to express her condolences. Mr Raisi arrived in New York on Monday for the annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations, where he will deliver a speech on Wednesday.
On Twitter, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called on Iran to “end the systematic persecution of women and to facilitate peaceful protest,” adding that the United States mourned Ms Amini along with the Iranian people.
Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat-Zanjani, an important Shia religious leader in the holy city of Qom, convicted The actions of the security forces that led to Ms Amini’s death said they were “against the law, against religion and against logic”.
Iran’s main reformist political party, Hezb-i Etemad-i Melli, has a pronunciation calls for an end to the vice squad and demands that the Iranian parliament repeal the hijab law, a first for a political group in Iran.
But Roya Boroumand, the executive director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, a Washington-based advocacy group that focuses on human rights in Iran, said the law, or the vice squad, was unlikely to be abolished.
“Hijab is the signature of the revolution,” said Ms Boroumand. “It is what sets Iran apart from other Muslim countries and it is the means to terrorize the population – women – for no reason.”