At least 9 people have been killed in Iran amid protests following the death of a woman in morality police custody over her improper wearing of the mandatory face covering.
Protests have spread nationwide after Mahsa Amini, 22, was arrested Friday and ended up dead. Activists said the woman had suffered a fatal blow to the head. Local authorities have denounced the allegations and said an investigation into the incident had been launched.
Many women demonstrators have defiantly taken off their hijabs and burned them in bonfires or symbolically cut their hair, according to video footage that went viral on social media.
Unrest has spread to more than 20 major cities, including the capital Tehran. Overnight rallies were held in Tehran and other cities including Mashhad in the northeast, Tabriz in the northwest, Rasht in the north, Isfahan in the center, and Shiraz in the south, it was reported.
Death to the dictator and Woman, life, freedom, protesters could be heard shouting in video footage that spread beyond Iran, despite authorities having restricted access to the internet for security reasons.
According to local authorities, the young woman died of natural causes, but activists and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights believe otherwise.
The Kurdish rights group Hengaw said seven protesters were killed, three of them on Tuesday, as a result of direct fire by government forces, in or near Kurdish areas in the northwest of the country, where the unrest has been particularly intense and lethal, while at least 450 others had been injured.
Internet outage watchdog NetBlocks reported that Iran has restricted access to Instagram, the only major social media platform that the government does not usually block. A senior official recently said it had some 48 million users in the country.
No to the veil, no to the turban, yes to freedom and equality! protesters shouted in Tehran. The protests generated a wave of international solidarity, including that of US President Joseph Biden in his message to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday.
Protesters also hurled stones at security forces and set fire to police vehicles and containers in cities including Mashhad, Tabriz, Isfahan, and Shiraz, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made no mention of the protests - among the worst unrest in Iran since last year's street clashes over water shortages - during a speech Wednesday to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Meanwhile, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi accused Western governments at the United Nations (UN) of having double standards in assessing women's rights in their respective countries and in the Islamic republic.
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