DUBAI (Reuters) – The governor of Tehran has accused protesters of attacking police and destroying public property during demonstrations ignited by the death of a young woman while in the custody of Iran’s morality police.
Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdistan province, fell into a coma and died following her arrest in Tehran last week by the morality police for “unsuitable attire,” sparking nationwide anger and demonstrations in numerous areas, including the capital.
The protests spread on Monday, with the most intense in the Kurdish region. Kurdish human rights group Hengaw said three people were killed there on Monday when security forces opened fire, revising down a previous tally of five dead.
Reuters could not independently verify the report, and there was no official confirmation of the fatalities.
In the nationwide condemnations of Amini’s death, the Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini has reached over 3 million Twitter mentions.
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Videos posted on social media have shown demonstrations in numerous cities, with women waving their headscarves and protesters facing off with security forces.
Reuters has been unable to verify the videos.
Tehran governor Mohsen Mansouri, in a post on Twitter overnight, said “the main elements of tonight’s gatherings in Tehran were fully organized, trained and planned to create disturbances in Tehran”.
“Burning the flag, pouring diesel on the roads, throwing stones, attacking the police, setting fire to motorcycles and garbage cans, destroying public property, etc. are not the work of ordinary people,” he said.
In one large protest in Tehran, a crowd of demonstrators wearing black shouted “Oh the day when we will be armed”, according to a video posted by the 1500tasvir Twitter account, which publishes footage it says it receives from the public. The account has 70,000 followers.
Another video from Tehran showed police cars with their windows smashed, as a nearby security forces’ vehicle fired water canon towards protesters.
In the northern province of Gilan, police arrested 22 people for destroying public property, the deputy police commander said.
The police have said Amini fell ill as she waited with other women held by the morality police, who enforce strict rules in the Islamic republic requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose fitting clothes in public.
But her father has repeatedly said his daughter had no health problems, adding that she had suffered bruises to her legs. He held the police responsible for her death.
In the Kurdish region, the rights organisation Hengaw said there were protests in 13 cities on Monday and that 250 people had been arrested.
Hengaw gave the names of three people who it said had been killed during protests in three different cities, including Amini’s hometown of Saqez. Hengaw said a person previously identified as dead was in fact wounded.
The United States on Monday demanded accountability, saying Amini died “after injuries sustained while in police custody for wearing an ‘improper’ hijab”. France also condemned her arrest, “and the violence that caused her death”.
On Monday, the Tehran police commander described her death as an “unfortunate” incident, while rejecting what he said were “cowardly accusations” against the police.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
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