Iran curbs internet access as protests claim 11 lives

PARIS: Iran Internet access was restricted on Thursday after days of protests and unrest have claimed the lives of at least 11 people, following the death of a young woman in ethical police custody.
Public anger has flared in the Islamic republic over the death of a 22-year-old man last week Mahsa Aminiwho was detained for allegedly wearing a hijab “improperly”.
Activists say the woman, whose first name is Kurdish Jhina, received a fatal blow to the head, a claim denied by officials who announced the investigation.
For six consecutive nights of protests, women protesters defiantly removed their headscarves and burned them in bonfires or symbolically cut their hair in front of a cheering crowd, the video went viral on social media. showed.
“No to the hijab…yes to freedom and equality!” Protesters in Tehran were heard chanting during a rally that has been echoed by solidarity demonstrations abroad.
Iranian women interviewed by AFP on the streets of Tehran say they are now more careful in dressing to avoid clashes with ethical police.
“I’m scared,” said Nazanin, a 23-year-old nurse who asked to be identified only for safety reasons. “They shouldn’t confront people” or interfere with the way women dress, she added.
There is growing international alarm over Iran’s crackdown on protests, including from the US President. Joe Biden in an address addressed to the United Nations.
“Today we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran, who are now protesting to secure their fundamental rights.” Biden told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
He spoke shortly after world leaders gathered in New York heard a defiant speech from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
He pointed to the deaths of indigenous women in Canada as well as Israel’s actions in Palestinian territory and the “brutals” of the Islamic State group against women from religious minorities.
“As long as we have this double standard, where attention is focused on one side and not all equally, we will not have true fairness and equity,” Raisi said. .
Iranian state media reported on Wednesday that street protests had spread to 15 cities, with police using tear gas and making arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people.
In southern Iran, allegedly purported video from Wednesday showed protesters burning a giant painting next to the building of General Qassem Soleimani, the respected Revolutionary Guards commander who was killed. in a 2020 US drone strike in Iraq.
The IRNA news agency said protesters hurled stones at security forces, burned police cars and trash cans, and chanted anti-government slogans.
Protesters can be heard shouting “Die for the dictator” and “Women, life, freedom” in the footage spreading beyond Iran, despite the restrictions. online was first reported by Internet access monitoring company Netblocks.
Iran moved to further block access to Instagram and WhatsApp on Thursday.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported: “According to the decision of the officials, people have not been able to access Instagram in Iran since last night (Wednesday) and access to WhatsApp was also interrupted.”
The two most widely used apps in Iran after other platforms were blocked in recent years, including Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok.
United Nations human rights experts have condemned both “the use of physical violence against women” and “state-mandated internet disruption”.
They said in a statement: “Disruption to the Internet is often part of a larger effort to rein in … freedom of expression … and to limit ongoing protests.
On Thursday, Iranian media said three militiamen “mobilized to deal with the rioters” were stabbed or shot to death in northwestern Tabriz, central Qazvin and northeastern Mashhad.
A fourth member of the security forces has died in the southern city of Shiraz, reports said, adding that a protester was stabbed to death in Qazvin, adding to the six protester deaths already reported by the police. notified by the official.
But there are concerns that the death toll could rise, as Norwegian-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw on Wednesday also reported the deaths of two protesters, aged 16 and 23, in West Azerbaijan province.
Iranian authorities have denied any involvement in the protesters’ deaths.
Amnesty International said it had recorded the deaths of eight people – six men, one woman and one child – of whom four were shot by security forces at close range with bullets. metal.
The protests are among the most serious in Iran since November 2019 due to unrest over rising fuel prices.
Iran expert David Rigoulet-Roze of France’s Institute of Strategic and International Affairs said the wave of unrest over Amini’s death “was a huge shock, it was a social crisis”. .

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