Iran’s police warned Wednesday they will confront “with all their might” 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 breaching the Islamic republic’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.
Widespread protests took place for a 12th straight night on Tuesday, according to opposition media based outside Iran, despite internet restrictions designed to impede gatherings and prevent images of the crackdown getting out.
Iran was accused of killing seven people and wounding 28 in cross-border strikes Wednesday against Kurdish factions in Iraq that have denounced the protest crackdown in the Islamic republic, prompting Iraq to summon the Iranian ambassador.
“These cowardly attacks are occurring at a time when the terrorist regime of Iran is unable to crack down on ongoing protests inside and silence the Kurdish and Iranian peoples’ civil resistance,” the Iraq-based Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran said.
In the protests, “Woman, Life, Freedom!” has been the rallying cry as women have burned their headscarves in bonfires or symbolically cut off their hair, cheered on by crowds.
Riot police in black body armour were seen shooting up at apartment windows in Tehran’s Ekbatan Town, in footage shared overnight by Radio Farda — a US-funded Persian station based in Prague.
– ‘Blow to the head’ –
“Police officers will oppose with all their might the conspiracies of counter-revolutionaries and hostile elements, and deal firmly with those who disrupt public order and security anywhere in the country,” the police said.
The statement came only hours after the UN said its secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, had called on Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi not to use “disproportionate force” against protesters.
“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising fatalities, including women and children, related to the protests,” the UN chief’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Fars news agency said Tuesday “around 60” people had been killed since Amini’s death on September 16, up from the official toll of 41 authorities reported on Saturday.
But the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said the crackdown has killed at least 76 people.
Officials said Monday they had made more than 1,200 arrests, including of activists, lawyers and journalists.
A cousin of Amini said she had been visiting Tehran with her family when she encountered the notorious morality police and died after a “violent blow to the head”.
Amini, whose Kurdish first name is Jhina, was arrested along with her brother and female relatives after leaving an underground station despite being “dressed normally”, Erfan Salih Mortezaee said.
“The police officer told (her brother), ‘We are going to take her in, instil the rules in her and teach her how to wear the hijab and how to dress’,” he told AFP in Iraqi Kurdistan.
“Jhina’s death has opened the doors of popular anger,” said Mortezaee, who joined the Iranian Kurdish nationalist group Komala after leaving the Islamic republic a year ago.
– Shah’s son hails ‘women’s revolution’ –
In an interview with AFP, the son of Iran’s late shah hailed the protests as a landmark revolution by women and urged the world to add to the pressure on the clerical leadership.
Reza Pahlavi, whose father was toppled in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, called for greater preparation for a future Iranian system that is secular and democratic.
“It is truly in modern times, in my opinion, the first revolution for the women, by the women — with the support of the Iranian men, sons, brothers and fathers,” said Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the Washington area.
“It has come to the point, as the Spaniards would say, basta — we’ve had enough.”
On Tuesday, authorities in Iran arrested the daughter of ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for “inciting rioters”, the Tasnim news agency reported.
The crackdown has drawn condemnation from around the world.
Tensions with Western powers have grown this week, with Germany summoning the Iranian ambassador, Canada announcing sanctions and Tehran calling in the British and Norwegian envoys.
Spain on Wednesday summoned the Iranian ambassador to express its “objection over the repression of the protests and the violation of women’s rights”.