Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps on Thursday called on the Islamic Republic’s judiciary to prosecute “those who spread false news and rumours” in an apparent effort to stop nationwide protests over the death of a young woman in police custody.
The warning was a clear indication that elite forces are ready to step up action against demonstrations.
Protesters in Tehran and other Iranian cities set fire to police stations and vehicles earlier on Thursday as public outcry over the death showed no signs of easing, with reports of security forces being attacked.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week after being arrested in Tehran for wearing “inappropriate clothes”. She fell into a coma while incarcerated. Authorities said they would launch an investigation into the cause of death.
In a statement, the Garde expressed its condolences to Amini’s family and relatives.
“We have asked the judiciary to identify those who are spreading fake news and rumors on social media and on the streets and who are endangering the psychological safety of society and to tackle them resolutely,” said Garde, who has cracked down on the protests. knocked down. in the past.
More protests expected
Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils, and some cutting their hair in public.
Pro-government protests are scheduled for Friday, and some protesters have already taken to the streets, Iranian media said.
Chief Justice Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei has ordered swift action in the case of the rioters to “maintain the security and peace of the civilians,” Tasnim News Agency reported.
The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran’s vice squad, accusing them of abuse and violence against Iranian women and of violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters, the US Treasury Department said.
The protests over Amini’s death are the largest in the Islamic Republic since 2019. Most are concentrated in the Kurdish-populated northwestern part of Iran, but have spread to the capital and at least 50 cities and towns across the country. the police use force to disperse protesters. Amini came from the Kurdistan province.
A group of United Nations experts, including Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, claimed responsibility for Amini’s death.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Ms. Amini. She too is a victim of Iran’s continued repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of physical autonomy and freedom of opinion, expression and belief” , the experts said in a statement.
Another mobile internet disruption has been registered in the country, internet monitoring group Netblocks wrote on Twitter, a possible sign that authorities fear the protests will intensify.
On Twitter, WhatsApp said it is working to keep Iranian users connected, adding that it does not block Iranian numbers.
A member of an Iranian pro-government paramilitary organization, the Basij, was stabbed to death in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Wednesday, two semi-official Iranian news agencies reported Thursday.
Reports from the Tasnim and Fars news agencies about the stabbing appeared on the social media platform Telegram on Thursday, as both their websites were down on Thursday. There was no official confirmation of the death.
Police stations set on fire, security personnel killed
Tasnim said another member of the Basij was killed in the city of Qazvin on Wednesday as a result of a gunshot wound inflicted by “rioters and gangs”.
Nour news, a media outlet affiliated with a top security agency, shared a video of an army officer confirming the death of a soldier during the unrest, bringing the total reported number of members of the security forces killed during the unrest to five. .
A Mazandaran official said 76 members of the security forces were injured in the province during the unrest, while the Kurdistan police commander said more than 100 security forces were injured.
In the northeast, protesters shouted: “We will die, we will die, but we will get Iran back,” near a police station, which was set on fire, a video posted on Twitter account 1500tasvir showed. The account focuses on protests in Iran and has about 100,000 followers.
Reuters could not verify the images.
Amini’s death has fueled anger over issues such as restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran — including strict dress codes for women — and an economy reeling from economic sanctions.
Iran’s spiritual rulers fear a resurgence of the 2019 protests that erupted over the rise in gasoline prices, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic’s history. Reuters reported that 1,500 people were killed.
Protesters have also expressed anger at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this week. “Mojtaba, may you die and not become a Supreme Leader,” a crowd in Tehran chanted, referring to Khamenei’s son, who some say could succeed his father at the top of Iran’s political establishment.
Reuters could not verify the video.
Reports from the Kurdish rights group Hengaw, which Reuters also failed to verify, said the death toll in the Kurdish areas had risen to 15 and the wounded to 733. Iranian officials have denied that security forces killed protesters, suggesting they may have been shot. by armed dissidents.
At least nine people have died as a result of the protests, according to a Thursday count by The Associated Press, based on statements from Iran’s state and semi-official media.
In northern Iran, crowds armed with batons and stones attacked two members of the security forces on a motorcycle while a crowd cheered, according to images Reuters could not verify.