Violent unrest continues in Iran following Mahsa Amini's death in custody, 26 reportedly killed

Protesters across Iran have continued to clash violently with security forces following the death of a young woman in police custody, as Iranian state TV suggested the death toll from the unrest could be as high as 26, without offering details.

Amini was detained by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code

Iranian regime supporters call for execution of those protesting woman's death

4 months ago
Duration 1:59
Pro-government marchers in Iran are calling for the execution of those protesting the death of Mahsa Amini and demanding justice and accountability after the 22-year old woman died while in custody of the country's morality police.

Protesters across Iran continued to clash violently with security forces early Friday following the death of a young woman in police custody. Iranian state TV suggested the death toll from the unrest could be as high as 26, without offering details.

Although the scope of the protests across some dozen Iranian cities and towns remains unclear, the movement, in response to the death of Mahsa Amini last week after she was arrested by the country's morality police, represents the widest unrest since 2019, when rights groups said hundreds of people were killed in a violent crackdown.

Iran has also disrupted internet access to the outside world, according to internet traffic monitor Netblocks, and tightened restrictions on popular platforms used to organize rallies like Instagram and WhatsApp.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States took action "to advance internet freedom and the free flow of information" to Iranians. The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday issued guidance expanding the range of internet services available in Iran despite U.S. sanctions.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also said on Friday that he would activate the firm's satellite internet service, Starlink.

Journalists arrested

An anchor on state TV said late Thursday that 26 protesters and police officers had been killed since the protests erupted last Saturday after the funeral of Amini, 22, without elaborating on how authorities reached that figure. He said official statistics would be released later, but in past times of turmoil the Iranian government has not offered official death tolls.

The unrest has killed at least 11 people according to a tally by The Associated Press, based on statements from state-run and semiofficial media. Most recently, the deputy governor of Qazvin, Abolhasan Kabiri, said that a citizen and paramilitary officer had been killed in unrest that rocked two cities in the northwestern province.

WATCH | Worldwide anger following Amini's death:

In-custody death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini sparks worldwide protests

5 months ago
Duration 2:07
The death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was in the custody of Iran's morality police, has sparked protests in Iran and around the world. The United Nations is now calling for Iran to launch a probe into her death.

At least 11 journalists have been arrested amid the clashes, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

CPJ's sources said that several of the journalists were taken into custody during post-midnight raids on their homes," CPJ said in a statement. "The sources said that the security forces — who confiscated the journalists' electronic devices — did not identify which agency they represented or produce arrest warrants or explanation of charges."

The crisis unfolding in Iran began as a public outpouring over the the death of Amini, a young woman from a northwestern Kurdish town who was arrested by the country's morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly violating its strictly enforced dress code.

The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.

Amini's death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations, and touched a national nerve.

Hundreds of Iranians across at least 13 cities from the capital, Tehran, to Amini's northwest Kurdish hometown of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression. Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.

WATCH | UN official calls for probe: 

Top UN official calls for independent investigation into death of Mahsa Amini

5 months ago
Duration 6:43
Shadi Sadr, human rights lawyer and executive director of Justice for Iran joins The Rundown to discuss calls from the UN high commissioner for human rights for an independent investigation into the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died last week after being apprehended by morality police.

"The death has tapped into broader antigovernment sentiment in the Islamic Republic and especially the frustration of women," wrote political risk firm Eurasia Group, noting that Iran's hardliners have intensified their crackdown on women's clothing over the past year since former judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi became president.

"In the cold calculus of Iranian leaders … a more forceful response is required to quell the unrest."

Thousands of people around the world are protesting in solidarity with Iranians upset over Amini's death, including in cities throughout Canada. Demonstrators also marched in London and Berlin.

Violent protests, counter-protest

Videos on social media show protesters in Tehran torching a police car and confronting officers at close range. Elsewhere in the capital, videos show gunfire sounding out as protesters bolt from riot police shouting, "They are shooting at people! Oh my God, they're killing people!"

In the northwest city of Neyshabur, protesters cheered over an overturned police car. Footage from Tehran and Mashhad shows women waving their obligatory hijab head coverings in the air like flags while chanting, "Freedom!"

The scenes of women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs feed into a broader political debate over the role of religious strictures in a modern-day republic — questions that have plagued the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.

A protest in Germany
People take part in a protest in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Friday following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran. Anger has erupted in many cities around the world following the woman's death in police custody. (Christian Mang/Reuters)

But the protests have also grown into an open challenge to the government. The chants have been scathing, with some calling for the downfall of the ruling clerics. The protesters cry, "Death to the dictator!" and "Mullahs must be gone!"

In a sign of the test that the protest movement posed to the government, hardline groups organized a counter-demonstration in Tehran on Friday.

Thousands of women in traditional black chadors and men dressed in the style of the Basij, a volunteer force under the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, poured into the streets after Friday prayers to vent their anger over the unrest, state-run IRNA news agency reported.

"Death to America!", "Death to Israel!" and "America's mercenaries are at war with religion!", they chanted.

Iran's intelligence ministry warned citizens against joining "illegal" street rallies on Friday, threatening prosecution. Local officials have announced the arrest of dozens of protesters.

Hasan Hosseinpour, deputy police chief in the northern Gilan province, reported 211 people had been detained on Friday. The government of the western Hamadan province said 58 demonstrators had been arrested.

Tehran University announced that it would move classes online for the next week amid the unrest, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.

London-based watchdog Amnesty International has accused security forces of beating protesters with batons and firing metal pellets at close range. Videos show police and paramilitary officers using live fire, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrations.

Iran has grappled with waves of protests in the recent past, mainly over a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by American sanctions linked to its nuclear program.

In November 2019, the country saw the deadliest violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as protests erupted over a rise in the state-controlled price of gasoline.

LISTEN | Protests spread around the world: 
Mahsa Amini died after being arrested by Iran's morality police for not adequately covering her hair. We discuss the outrage and protests sparked by her death, with journalist and activist Masih Alinejad; and Shahrzad Mojab, a professor of women's studies and adult education at the University of Toronto.

With files from Reuters and CBC News