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Iran Stages Rallies To Counter Week Of Anti-Establishment Protests Over Woman's Death In Custody

By RFE/RL September 23, 2022

State-organized demonstrations have taken place in several Iranian cities to counter days of anti-establishment protests triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman following her arrest by Tehran's morality police over failing to adhere to the country's strict rules on the wearing of the hijab, or head scarf.

The government news agency IRNA said people took to the streets on September 23 "to censure insulting the Holy Koran, setting fire to mosques, as well as desecrating the Islamic dress code."

Demonstrators condemned the anti-government protesters as "Israel's soldiers", live state television coverage showed. They also shouted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", common slogans that the country's clerical rulers use in state-sponsored events.

The rallies came amid the strongest warning yet from the authorities when the army told Iranians it would confront "the enemies" behind the unrest shown by angry Iranians who have taken to the streets of dozens of cities in recent days over the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the morality police for allegedly wearing "unsuitable attire."

Police have said she died from a sudden heart attack while denying claims by activists that she was beaten.

The protests started in Amini's home province of Kurdistan and then spread to other parts of the country, including the capital, Tehran.

Protests and clashes were reported on September 23 in several cities, including Tehran.

Amini's death has led to calls for an end to the forced hijab law and the abolition of the morality police. Amateur videos posted online show some women burning their veils during protests.

Some protesters have also called for an end to the Islamic republic.

Iran's military said on September 23 that it would "confront the enemies' various plots in order to ensure security and peace for the people who are being unjustly assaulted."

"We will not allow enemies to use the situation," a military statement said, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

On September 22, the head of Iran's judiciary Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei called for security forces to respond with force to the protests.

In recent days, protesters in Tehran and other cities have reportedly torched police vehicles as outrage over Amini's death showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces coming under attack.

Iranian media have reported the arrest of 288 "rioters."

The official death toll from the clashes remains at least 17, including five security personnel, but the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) put the figure at 36 and said it expected it to rise.

Meanwhile, reports suggest that about 40 activists, students, women's rights advocates, and intellectuals have also been arrested in recent days, including Majid Tavakoli and Mohammad Reza Jalaeipour.

The New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on September 23 that 11 journalists have been arrested amid clashes between security forces and protesters.

Photojournalist Yalda Moayeri, journalist Fatemeh Rajabi, and Niloufar Hamedi, a journalist with the Shargh daily who reported from a Tehran hospital where Amini died on September 16, are among them.

"Iranian authorities must immediately release all journalists arrested because of their coverage of Mahsa Amini's death and the protests that have followed," CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. said in a statement.

"Iranian security forces must drop their repressive measures against the journalists telling this critical story and restore the Internet access that is vital to keep the public informed," Mansour added.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Reuters, AFP and IRNA

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-state-sponsored- ralllies-amini-hijab/32048326.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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