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Protests rage in Iran despite deadly crackdown

Iranian protesters have remained defiant with students staging sit-ins and some industrial workers going on strike despite a crackdown activists say has left dozens dead and hundreds more imprisoned.

Videos posted on social media indicated on Monday that protests flared at various points in the capital and other cities over recent days, with women burning headscarves and shouting slogans against the Islamic republic.

Rights group Hengaw accused authorities of using heavy weaponry, including “shelling” on neighbourhoods and “machine gun fire”, in the northwestern city of Sanandaj — claims which could not be independently confirmed amid widespread internet blocks.

Public anger has flared since authorities announced on September 16 the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been held by the Tehran morality police for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an improper way.

Activists say she was beaten in custody, while the authorities in Iran have released a medical report blaming a pre-existing condition.

Oslo-based non-government group Iran Human Rights (IHR) shared images of a sit-in protest at the northern Gilan university and of high school girls in the northern town of Mahabad removing their headscarves.

It also posted a video which it said showed a large crowd of students outside Tehran polytechnic on Monday denouncing the “poverty and corruption” in Iran and shouting “death to this tyranny”.

Footage shared on social media, including by news site Iran Wire, said students at Tehran women’s university Al Zahra shouted criticism of the regime during a visit by President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday.

Iranians persist with protests, strikes amid police crackdown

Tensions simmer

State news agency IRNA said police used tear gas late on Sunday “to disperse the crowds in dozens of locations in Tehran”, adding that the demonstrators “chanted slogans and set fire to and damaged public property, including a police booth”.

Gunshots were also heard in Amini’s home town of Saqqez, according to some reports.

Analysts say that the multi-faceted nature of the protests — ranging from street marches to student strikes to individual actions of defiance — has complicated the state’s attempts to quell the movement.

This could make the protests an even bigger challenge to the authorities under supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, than the November 2019 protests against energy price hikes that were bloodily put down.

One viral video said to show a woman bare-headed in defiance of the dress code, in a street in the northwestern city of Kermanshah with outstretched arms and offering “free hugs” to passers-by.

There have also been signs of labour unrest. Videos broadcast by Persian media based outside Iran showed striking workers burning tyres outside the Asalouyeh petrochemical plant in the country’s southwest.

While university students have played a pivotal role in the protests with dozens of universities on strike, unconfirmed reports on social media showed workers at Abadan and Kangan oil refineries and the Bushehr Petrochemical Project had joined in.

The crackdown on the protests sparked by Amini’s death has claimed at least 95 lives, according to Norway-based group Iran Human Rights.

Another 90 people have been killed by the security forces in Iran’s far southeastern city of Zahedan from September 30 after protests sparked by the alleged rape of a teenage girl by a police chief in the Sistan-Baluchistan province, said IHR, citing the UK-based Baluch Activists Campaign.

State media have said 24 members of the security forces have been killed overall, including in the Zahedan unrest.

And on Monday, a judicial official said “several” inmates died and others were injured during a prison riot in northern Iran, during which security forces used tear gas.

Sunday’s riot took place in Rasht, the provincial capital of Gilan, after a brawl broke out between death row inmates at the prison over “personal differences”.

Amnesty: Children among dozens killed in Iran crackdown in Zahedan

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