Iran protests: Casualties rise amid gov't crackdown

At least 17 casualties were reported as protests spread to over 80 cities across Iran.

 People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 21, 2022 (photo credit: WANA VIA REUTERS)
People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic's "morality police", in Tehran, Iran September 21, 2022
(photo credit: WANA VIA REUTERS)

At least three members of the Iranian Basij paramilitary force were killed in protests sweeping Iran in light of the death of Mahsa Amini on Thursday, with Iranian state media reporting that 17 people have been killed since the protests began. As of Thursday, they had reportedly spread to over 80 cities throughout the country.

Basij forces were killed in Tabriz, Mashhad and Qazvin overnight, according to Iranian reports. An Iranian army officer was also killed in Qochan during the protests, according to the Mehr News Agency.

Two civilians were killed and about 25 civilians and police officers were injured during the protests in Kermanshah as well, according to Mehr, which blamed the deaths on "anti-revolutionary forces."

The number of civilians actually killed and injured remains unclear and may be much higher than official reports, as Iranian authorities have underreported casualties in past crackdowns on protests. Restrictions on internet access are making it difficult for information to be shared from unofficial sources.

Iranian protesters confront government suppression

Videos published on social media from independent sources show Iranian protesters clashing with security forces throughout the country overnight, with many videos showing them shooting at unarmed protesters.

Protests break out across Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini (Credit: Rudaw Media Network)

One video reportedly from Mashhad showed protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces who were attempting to suppress the protests. Additional videos showed protesters pelting vehicles carrying police with rocks in multiple locations.

Other videos reportedly from Tehran and Tabriz showed Iranian women burning their hijabs in the middle of the street. In at least some of the videos, security forces were seen retreating after being confronted by protesters.

Protesters across Iran chanted "Death to [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei!" and burned banners portraying Khamenei and former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, according to footage shared on social media. The Jerusalem Post could not verify the authenticity of the footage.

Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, an Iranian lawyer, tweeted on Thursday that Iranian forces were conducting widespread arrests of university students across the country, with many other students being summoned by security forces and receiving threatening calls.

In Mazandaran in northern Iran, 41 government buildings were damaged and 76 police officers and Basij operatives were injured during the riots, according to local officials.

A spokesman for the Iranian Health Ministry told Iranian media that 61 ambulances have been destroyed in the protests.

Internet access shutdown amid protests

The NetBlocks internet observatory reported on Thursday afternoon that it had recorded a new mobile internet disruption after service had been restored after being disrupted overnight between Wednesday and Thursday. The internet shutdown is the most severe since widespread protests swept Iran in 2019.

Access to Instagram and WhatsApp has also been restricted, according to NetBlocks. Radio Farda reported that Iranians abroad with Iranian numbers were also unable to use WhatsApp and that those in Iran were unable to use the messaging app even when using tools to break filters. The reported blocks, along with reports that anti-regime Instagram posts have been removed by Meta, have caused social media users to question if the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp is cooperating with the Iranian government.

Iranian government blames Israel, US for protests

The IRGC issued a statement in response to the protests on Thursday, claiming that they were being fueled by the US and Israel and comparing the protesters to ISIS. The Guard Corps emphasized that students should be aware of "enemy plots."

Officials in Tehran announced on Thursday that a protest against the anti-government protests would be held in the capital city on Friday.

What sparked the wave of protests?

Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week after being arrested for wearing "unsuitable attire" by the morality police in Tehran after she fell into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would launch an investigation into the cause of death, but have largely called the incident an accident and denied any wrongdoing.

Shortly after her death, large-scale protests broke out across the country in the largest wave since 2019.

Amini's father, Amjad, told BBC Persian that Iranian authorities' claims about his daughter's death were "lies" and that her body had been wrapped in a way that hid her face but showed her legs, which were bruised.

Amini's father added that he was blocked from the autopsy process and that, according to witnesses, his daughter was beaten in the van that brought her to the morality police station.