Iran must deal decisively with protests, president says

People light a fire during a protest against the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic Republic’s ‘moral police’ September 21, 2022 in Tehran, Iran. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

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DUBAI, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Iran must deal decisively with the protests that have gripped the country following the death of a woman in custody detained by the Islamic Republic’s morality police, President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday.

According to Iranian state television, 35 people were killed in the week-long demonstrations, with protests spreading to most of the country’s 31 provinces.

State-organized rallies were held in several Iranian cities on Friday to counter anti-government protests, and the army vowed to confront “the enemies” behind the unrest.

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State media quoted Raisi on Saturday as saying Iran must “deal firmly with those who oppose the security and tranquility of the country.”

Raisi spoke by phone to the family of a member of the Basij volunteer force who was killed while taking part in the quelling of unrest in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The president “stressed the need to distinguish between protest and disruption to public order and security, calling the events … a riot,” state media reported.

The protests erupted a week ago in north-west Iran at the funeral of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after falling into a coma after being arrested by morality police for enforcing hijab rules on the dress of women had been arrested.

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Her death has reignited anger over issues such as Iran’s curbing of personal liberties, strict dress codes for women and a sanctions-battered economy.

Women have featured prominently in the protests by waving and burning their veils. Some have publicly cut their hair as angry crowds called for the ouster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The protests are the largest to sweep the country since the 2019 fuel price demonstrations, when Reuters reported that 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown on protesters. It was the bloodiest confrontation in the history of the Islamic Republic.

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Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday that 739 protesters had been arrested in the northern Caspian Sea province of Gilan.

Activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, which has 125,000 followers, said communication channels with the northwestern city of Oshnavieh had been cut and landlines were down.

Oshnavieh was one of several cities in northwestern Iran home to most of the country’s 10 million Kurds who held a strike on Friday. Kurdish rights group Hengaw released a video on Friday showing protesters controlling parts of the city.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

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Writing from Dominic Evans Editing by Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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