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Iran state TV indicates at least 26 killed in unrest over death of detained woman

Oslo-based NGO says it believes at least 31 civilians dead; photographers, activist among those held in wave of arrests as protests continue across country over Mahsa Amini’s death

A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran on September 21, 2022, shows Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran on September 21, 2022, shows Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian state television suggested that the death toll from protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody has risen to over two dozen, without providing more information as the unrest continues.

An anchor on Iran’s state television suggested the death toll from the mass protests could be as high as 26 on Thursday, but did not elaborate or say how he reached that figure.

“Unfortunately, 26 people and police officers present at the scene of these events lost their lives,” the anchor said, adding official statistics would be released later.

Iran Human Rights (IHR), an Oslo-based NGO, said it had counted at least 31 civilian deaths.

Iranians have rallied “to achieve their fundamental rights and human dignity… and the government is responding to their peaceful protest with bullets,” said its director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

Security forces have fired at crowds with birdshot and metal pellets, and deployed tear gas and water cannons, said Amnesty International and other human rights groups. Demonstrators have hurled stones at them, set fire to police cars and chanted anti-government slogans, the official IRNA news agency said.

Women hold up drawings of Iranian Mahsa Amini as they shout slogans during a protest against her death, outside Iran’s general consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, September 21, 2022. (AP/Francisco Seco)

The demonstrations in Iran began as an emotional outpouring over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman held by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strictly enforced dress code.

The police say she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.

Protesters have been heard shouting “death to the dictator” and “woman, life, freedom” in video footage shared widely online during the biggest wave of demonstrations to rock the country in almost three years.

Some Iranian women have burnt their headscarves and symbolically cut their hair in protest at the strict dress code, echoed in solidarity demonstrations from New York to Istanbul.

Iran’s state-run media this week reported demonstrations of hundreds of people in at least 13 cities, including the capital, Tehran.

A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran on September 21, 2022, shows Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (Photo by AFP)

On Thursday, authorities arrested two female photographers, Niloufar Hamedi, of the reformist newspaper Shargh, and Yalda Moayeri, who works for the local press, as well as activist Mohammad-Reza Jalaipour, Iranian media said.

Iran International, a London-based television channel, said prominent freedom of expression campaigner Hossein Ronaghi was arrested as he was giving an interview to them.

The US Treasury placed the so-called Iranian “morality police” on its sanctions blacklist, holding it responsible for Amini’s death and citing the “abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters.”

Iranian authorities imposed some restrictions on the internet and blocked access to WhatsApp and Instagram.

“People in Iran are being cut off from online apps and services,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri tweeted, adding that “we hope their right to be online will be reinstated quickly”.

People in Tehran and some other cities plan to hold a counter-protest rally after the Friday prayer.

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