At least 31 dead in protests in Iran, access to social networks blocked

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At least 31 dead in Iran protests, access to social media blocked

On Wednesday evening, demonstrators in Tehran lit fires and blocked streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by the vice police. At least 31 people have died since the protests began.

Authorities in Iran have blocked access to Instagram and WhatsApp after six days of protests over the death of ;a young woman arrested by vice squad, in which at least 17 people died according to a state media report on Thursday.

But the toll is likely to be much higher, with Oslo-based opposition NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR) reporting at least 31 civilians killed by security forces .

The death of 22-year-old Iranian Mahsa Amini has drawn strong condemnation around the world, as international NGOs have denounced a brutal crackdown on protests. At the UN podium on Wednesday, United States President Joe Biden expressed solidarity with the courageous women of Iran.

Mahsa Amini, originally from Kurdistan (northwest), was arrested on September 13 in Tehran for wearing inappropriate clothes by the morality police responsible for enforcing the strict dress code in the Islamic Republic, where women must cover their hair and are not allowed to wear short or tight coats or jeans with holes. She died on September 16 in hospital.

Activists said she was fatally shot in the head, but Iranian officials denied this and announced an investigation.

Protests erupted immediately after her death, affecting around 15 cities across the country.

Seventeen people including protesters and police have died in the events of the past few days, according to a new report given by state television which does not give further details. A previous report by Iranian media reported seven protesters and four police officers killed.

Iranian officials have nevertheless denied any involvement of security forces in the deaths of the protesters.

But like other international NGOs and the UN, Amnesty International has denounced brutal repression. She reported illegal use of shotgun blasts, steel pellets, tear gas, water cannons and sticks to disperse protesters.

Since the beginning of the demonstrations, connections have been slowed down.

And since Wednesday evening, it is also no longer possible to access Instagram, by decision of the authorities. Access to WhatsApp is also disrupted, according to the Fars news agency. This measure was taken because of the actions carried out through these social networks by counter-revolutionaries against national security.

Instagram and WhatsApp were the most used apps in Iran since platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and TikTok were blocked in recent years. In addition, internet access is largely filtered or restricted by authorities.

UN human rights experts have ruled that these disruptions are usually part of efforts to stifle free speech and limit protests.

During the protests in several provinces of Iran, demonstrators clashed with security forces, torched police vehicles and chanted anti-government slogans, according to media and activists. Police responded with tear gas and arrested an unknown number of people, according to Iranian media.

According to activists, clashes broke out on Wednesday evening in Mashhad (north-east) demonstrators and security forces who opened fire. In Isfahan (center), protesters tore down a banner showing the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

The most viral images on social networks are those where one sees women setting their headscarves on fire.

No to the headscarf, no to the turban, yes to freedom and equality!, shouted protesters in Tehran, their slogans having been taken up in solidarity in New York or Istanbul.

According to Azadeh Kian, professor of sociology at Paris Cité University and specialist in Iran, what is unprecedented in these demonstrations is that we find women in front of the scene.

On Friday, at the call of a government organization, pro-headscarf protests are to take place across Iran, including in front of the University of Tehran after the weekly Muslim prayer, according to the official Irna agency.

These demonstrations aim to condemn the indecent actions of some mercenaries who [. ..] torched mosques and the sacred Iranian flag, desecrated women's hijab, destroyed public property and undermined security.

The protests of the past few days are among the most important in Iran since those of November 2019, triggered by the rise in gasoline prices, in the midst of an economic crisis. A hundred cities had been affected by a protest, severely repressed. The official death toll is 230, more than 300 according to Amnesty International.

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