A crisis is unfolding in Iran. It’s a public outpouring of anger over the death of Amini, a young woman who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.
Amini’s death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations, and touched a national nerve. Hundreds of Iranians across at least 13 cities from the capital, Tehran, to Amini’s northwest Kurdish hometown of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression. Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.
Now, the pro-regime counterprotesters have entered the streets of Iran, too… and there’s been a violent clash.
Videos on social media show protesters in Tehran torching a police car and confronting officers at close range. Elsewhere in the capital, videos show gunfire sounding out as protesters bolt from riot police, shouting: “They are shooting at people! Oh my God, they’re killing people!”
In the northwestern city of Neyshabur, protesters cheered over an overturned police car. Footage from Tehran and Mashhad shows women waving their obligatory headscarves, known as hijab, in the air like flags while chanting, “Freedom!”
Take a look —
This man in Iran slapped a woman. He thought he could get away with it. Things are different right now. pic.twitter.com/moHKrtKwkh
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) September 22, 2022
At least seven people in Iran have been killed in antigovernment demonstrations that spread to dozens of cities after a woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of the morality police. She was arrested for allegedly violating the law on head scarves. https://t.co/7SLlNVEenT pic.twitter.com/CQ6bceHTUD
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 23, 2022
The scenes of women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs feed into a broader political debate over the role of religious strictures in a modern-day republic — questions that have plagued the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.
But the protests have also grown into an open challenge to the government. The chants have been scathing, with some chanting “Death to the dictator!” and “Mullahs must be gone!”
Iran’s intelligence ministry warned citizens against joining the “illegal” street rallies on Thursday, threatening prosecution. Local officials have announced the arrest of dozens of protesters. Hasan Hosseinpour, deputy police chief in the northern Gilan province, reported 211 people detained there on Thursday. The government of the western Hamadan province said 58 demonstrators had been arrested.
Iran has grappled with waves of protests in the recent past, mainly over a long-running economic crisis. In November 2019, the country saw the deadliest violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as protests erupted over gas price hikes.
Economic hardship remains a major source of anger today as the prices of basic necessities soar and the Iranian currency declines in value.
Iranian counterprotesters gathered across the country on Friday in a show of support for authorities after nearly a week of anti-government protests and unrest over the death of a young woman who was being held by the morality police.
A few thousand people attended a rally in the capital, Tehran, where they waved Iranian flags, and similar demonstrations were held in other cities. The government claimed the demonstrations of support were spontaneous. Similar rallies have been held during past periods of widespread protests.
The pro-government demonstrators chanted against America and Israel, according to state media, reflecting the official line that foreign countries are fomenting the latest unrest.
State TV, meanwhile, suggested the death toll from this week’s unrest could be as high as 26. Anti-government protesters and security forces have clashed in several major cities in the most severe political unrest since 2019, when rights groups say hundreds were killed amid demonstrations against a hike in state-controlled gasoline prices.
Iran has cracked down on dissent. The nation has disrupted internet access and tightened restrictions on popular platforms used to organize rallies like Instagram and WhatsApp.
A state TV anchor said late Thursday that 26 protesters and policemen had been killed since the protests erupted last Saturday after the funeral of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, without elaborating on how authorities reached that figure. He said official statistics would be released later, but during past periods of unrest authorities have not provided a full accounting of deaths and injuries.
A tally by The Associated Press, based on statements from state-run and semiofficial media, shows that at least 11 people have been killed. Most recently, the deputy governor of Qazvin, Abolhasan Kabiri, said that a citizen and paramilitary officer had been killed in unrest that rocked two cities in the northwestern province.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. ]