At least 35 people died according to state media after the eight day of protests in Iran that followed the death of a Kurdish woman under police custody, but human right organisations say the death toll has already exceeded 50.
President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquillity”, as demonstrations have spread to 80 towns and cities across the country, according to Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based organisation.
Majsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, passed away in hospital last week after a three-day coma that followed her arrest by the country’s morality police for disobeying the Islamic dress code.
The Iranian authorities claim Amini died because of health problems, while her family and protestors in the street believe she lost her life due to brain damage caused by the brutality of the police.
“Reports from oversight bodies were received, witnesses were interviewed, videos were reviewed, forensic opinions were obtained and it was found that there had been no beating,” Iranian state media quoted Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying on Friday.
Vahidi accused “those who took irresponsible positions”, claiming that they incited violence and followed the United States, European countries and anti-revolutionary groups.
During a speech at UN General Assembly this week, Raisi also pointed his finger to Western nations, after the US announced it had imposed sanctions on seven senior Iranian military and security officials.
“Every day in different countries, including the United States, we see men and women dying in police encounters, but there is no sensitivity about the cause and dealing with this violence,” Raisi said.
Washington also announced a partial relaxation of Internet sanctions on Iran, after tech-mogul Elon Musk earlier this week stated that his satellite Internet firm Starlink would seek permission to operate in Iran.
Pro-government protestors also took to the streets on Friday, accusing anti-government protestors of being “Israeli soldiers”.
In the latest violence, demonstrators clashed with security forces on Friday evening in the city of Bokan in West Azerbaijan province, according to unverified reports of Hengaw, a second Oslo-based rights group, AFP said.
According to Hengaw, a general strike was also held on Friday in Oshnavieh, Javanroud, Sardasht and other towns in Kurdish-populated northwest Iran.
There are also unverified reports that Kurdish-populated Shno near the Iraq border on Friday was taken by Kurdish protesters who drove the police out of town.
Meanwhile rallies have been continuing across the world in solidarity with the Iranian protestors. This week saw protests in different parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The rallies in the West will continue during the weekend, while “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” (Woman, Life, Freedom), a Kurdish slogan for the liberation of women, has seemed to be embraced worldwide.
Meanwhile, women in different parts of the world join their sisters in Iran and cut their hair as an act to show their solidarity for women’s defiance against the country’s hijab law.