Iranian security forces killed five protesters on Monday, according to a rights group, amid widespread unrest over the death of a young woman who had been detained for violating the country’s conservative dress code.
The morality police detained the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last Tuesday for not covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. She died while in custody, setting off protests around the country.
Troops opened fire on demonstrators in Iran’s Kurdish region, according to a Kurdish group, the Hengaw Human Rights Organization.
Two of the killings occurred in Amini’s home city of Saqez. The other protesters were killed in the towns of Divandarreh and Dehgolan, the group said.
There has been no official mention of the deaths and the group’s claims have not been verified.
The group also reported 75 people wounded and at least 250 arrests in a number of cities.
The rights organization posted videos and photos it said showed fatalities, injuries and arrests during the third day of demonstrations in the Kurdish cities in Western Iran.
— Hengaw Organization for Human Rights (@Hengaw_English) September 19, 2022
Protesters are taking to the streets around the country, particularly in the Kurdish region. There are between 8 million and 10 million Iranian Kurds.
The semiofficial Fars news agency said students in many Tehran universities gathered in protest, demanding an investigation into Amini’s death and the dismantling of the morality police.
Witnesses said demonstrators poured into Tehran’s Keshavarz Boulevard, a central thoroughfare, chanting “Death to the dictator.” They also chanted against the police and damaged a police vehicle. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.
Late on Monday, Associated Press reporters saw torched trash bins and rocks strewn across some downtown intersections as the smell of tear gas hovered in the air. Police closed roads leading to the central Vali-e Asr square. Plainclothes security forces and groups of riot police could be seen throughout the area, and mobile internet service was down in central Tehran.
Dozens of protesters on motorbikes briefly appeared at a couple of junctions, where they overturned trash cans and chanted against authorities before speeding off.
Protesters marched down Hijab Street in central Tehran denouncing the morality police, the ISNA news agency reported.
“Several hundred people chanted slogans against the authorities, some of them took off their hijab,” the Fars said, adding that “police arrested several people and dispersed the crowd using batons and tear gas.”
A brief video released by Fars showed a crowd of several dozen people, including women who had removed their headscarves, shouting “Death to the Islamic republic!”
A “similar gathering” took place in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the Tasnim agency reported.
Police say Amini died of a heart attack and deny that she was mistreated. They released closed-circuit video footage last week purportedly showing the moment she collapsed.
Her family says she had no history of heart trouble and was “in perfect health.” Amjad Amini, her father, told Fars that he did “not accept what [the police] showed him,” arguing that “the film has been cut.”
He also criticized the “slow response” of the emergency services, saying, “I believe Mahsa was transferred to the hospital late.”
The morality police units enforce a dress code in the Islamic republic that demands women wear headscarves in public. It also bans tight trousers, ripped jeans, clothes that expose the knees and brightly colored outfits.
Tehran police chief General Hossein Rahimi said Monday the woman had violated the dress code, and that his colleagues had asked her relatives to bring her “decent clothes.”
He again rejected “unjust accusations against the police” and said “the evidence shows that there was no negligence or inappropriate behavior on the part of the police.”
Amini was buried Saturday in her hometown Saqez. Protests erupted there after her funeral and police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators on Saturday and Sunday. Several protesters were arrested.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, who departed for New York on Monday to address the UN General Assembly, has ordered an investigation and vowed to pursue the case in a phone call with Amini’s family. The judiciary has launched a probe, and a parliamentary committee is also looking into the incident.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday, “Mahsa Amini should be alive today. Instead, the United States and the Iranian people mourn her.”
“We call on the Iranian government to end its systemic persecution of women and to allow peaceful protest,” Blinken said.
The hijab has been compulsory for women in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the morality police are charged with enforcing that and other restrictions. The force has been criticized in recent years, especially over its treatment of young women.
Dozens of women removed their headscarves in protest in 2017.
The Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad, who is based in the US, shared videos Monday showing women removing hijabs and a crowd burning one of the garments in protest.
This video brought tears to my eyes.
Women & men burning compulsory hijab in the streets of Tehran where #MahsaAmini was beaten up to death by hijab police.
The woman who took the video says; our dream comes true Finally we are burning the symbol of our oppression in the street. pic.twitter.com/P9WYBixKw4
— Masih Alinejad ????️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 19, 2022
Iranians have also taken to the streets in recent years in response to an economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to Iran’s nuclear program.