Mahsa Amini: Protester death toll rises amid unrest in Iran over woman's death in police custody

·2-min read

The number of people killed in protests in Iran shot up on Thursday amid unrest over a woman's death in police custody.

Official figures announced on state television said at least 17 people were killed in clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters.

But Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR) has estimated that the number is much higher, reporting at least 31 civilians have been killed so far.

The protests began last week after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died after being detained by the country's so-called morality police. She was arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf, or hijab, "improperly".

Protests over Amini’s death on 16 September have morphed into an open challenge to Iran’s theocratic regime, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans and burning their hijabs.

It’s the worst unrest the country has seen in years. The government has taken steps to quash the protests, including restricting internet access and blocking messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

There are reports that security forces have violently dispersed protestors in several cities across Iran and arrested several prominent journalists and activists.

Monitoring group Netblocks described the internet restrictions as the most severe since 2019 when protests erupted over a government fuel price hike.

Bebeto Matthews/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks at a press conference, during his visit for the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, 22 September 2022, in New York. - Bebeto Matthews/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Adding to fears of a more severe crackdown, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard called for anyone who spreads “fake news” about the unrest to be prosecuted by the judiciary.

Amini’s death has been condemned by the European Union, United States and United Nations.

While Iranian police claim the young woman died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, eyewitnesses, relatives and independent experts suggest she was severely beaten by officers.

In response to the protests, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned protesters on Thursday that "acts of chaos" are not acceptable.

Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Raisi said he had ordered an investigation into Amini’s case.