Iran protests Western stance on mass protests over woman's death

Demonstrations that erupted more than a week ago at the funeral of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini have turned into the biggest protests in years.

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 (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) 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 (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iran summoned the British and Norwegian ambassadors over what it called interference and hostile media coverage of nationwide unrest triggered by the death of a woman detained by morality police, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also criticized US support for "rioters" - the label Tehran has used for many who have joined the protests which have swept the country, prompting a security crackdown and curbs on the internet and phones.

Demonstrations that erupted more than a week ago at the funeral of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini, who died in detention after being arrested by police enforcing the Islamic Republic's strict restrictions on women's dress, have turned into the biggest protests in years.

Clashes continued between security forces and protesters in several northwestern regions, according to sources in the cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Rasht and Hamedan

Protester killed by Iranian security forces

The sister of a 20-year-old woman identified as Hadis Najafi told a US-based activist in remarks published on Sunday that she had died after being shot by security forces. Videos of Najafi had been widely shared on Twitter, showing her without hijab and participating in protests in Karaj, 30 km (19 miles) northwest of Tehran.

Police arrive to disperse demonstrators 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 19, 2022. (credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)Police arrive to disperse demonstrators 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 19, 2022. (credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran ensures freedom of expression and that he has ordered an investigation into Amini's death in detention. He also said that "acts of chaos" were unacceptable and that Iran must deal decisively with the unrest. At the United Nations, he said extensive coverage of Amini's case was "double standards," pointing to deaths in US police custody.

Amirabdollahian said the United States was supporting 'rioters' and seeking to destabilize Iran, a stance it said contradicted American calls for stability in the region and for a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned Britain's ambassador in response to the "hostile character" of London-based Persian language media. Britain's foreign ministry said it was a champion of media freedom and that it condemned Iran's "crackdown on protesters, journalists and internet freedom."

The Norwegian envoy was also summoned to explain the "interventionist stance" of the country's parliament speaker Masud Gharahkhani, who has expressed support for the protesters on Twitter.

Gharahkhani, who was born in Tehran, continued to speak out on Sunday, writing on Twitter: "If my parents had not made the choice to flee in 1987, I would have been one of those fighting in the streets with my life on the line."

Amini's death has reignited anger in Iran over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms, the strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.

Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils. Some have publicly cut their hair as furious crowds called for the downfall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The protests are the largest to sweep the country since demonstrations over fuel prices in 2019 when Reuters reported 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown on protesters - the bloodiest bout of internal unrest in the Islamic Republic's history.

Protest videos show Iranians' fight for freedom

Iranian Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi called on activists and artists around the world to support the protesters, who he said were "looking for simple and yet fundamental rights that the state has denied them for years."

"I deeply respect their struggle for freedom and the right to choose their own destiny despite all the brutality they are subjected to," Farhadi said in a post on Instagram.

Iran's state television said 41 people have been killed since the protests broke out following Amini's death on Sept 16. The semi-official Mehr news agency said on Sunday eight members of the Basij, a militia under the umbrella of the Revolutionary Guards, were among the dead.

Official news agency IRNA said on Sunday a member of the Basij died from injuries suffered in a clash with what it called rioters in Orumieh in northwest Iran, where many of Iran's 10 million Kurds live.

It said his death occurred at a "critical juncture in the 43-year history of the Islamic revolution," referring to Iran's four decades of clerical rule since the overthrow of the Shah.

State media said 12 bank branches were destroyed in the unrest in recent days, and 219 ATMs have been damaged.

The Iranian human rights group Hengaw described the city of Oshnavieh, also in the country's northwest, as "completely militarized." It said the city was on strike, authorities were making arrests and at least five bodies were in the hospital morgue. Reuters could not verify the report.

Iranian television showed thousands of people rallying in Tehran on Sunday in support of authorities and chanting slogans against the United States and opposition groups they accused of insulting the Koran.

"Sedition is the cause of riots and is directed by America," they chanted.

An Iranian prosecutor said several people arrested in recent protests in northern Iran were members of the Islamic State group and communist Kurdish militant group Komaleh.