Mahsa Amini: Iran protests spread, death toll rises as internet curbed

IRANIAN authorities and a Kurdish rights group reported rising death tolls on Wednesday (Sept 21) as anger at the death of a woman detained by morality police fuelled protests for a fifth day and fresh restrictions were placed on social media.

Iranian media and a local prosecutor said four people were killed in the last two days, bringing the total death toll according to official sources to eight, including a member of the police and a pro-Government militia member.

The demonstrations erupted over the death in detention last week of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan who was arrested in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”.

The protests, which were concentrated in Iran’s Kurdish-populated northwestern regions but have spread to at least 50 cities and towns nationwide, are the largest since a wave of demonstrations in 2019 over gasoline price rises.

Reports from Kurdish rights group Hengaw, which Reuters could not verify, said 10 protesters had been killed. Three died on Wednesday, adding to the seven people the group said had been killed by security forces.

Officials have denied that security forces have killed protesters, suggesting they may have been shot by armed dissidents.

With no sign of the protests easing, authorities restricted access to the internet, according to accounts from Hengaw, residents and internet shutdown observatory NetBlocks.

Internet curbs

Activists expressed concern that the internet shutdown echoed a Government move before a crackdown against the 2019 fuel price protests when Reuters reported that 1,500 people were killed.

NetBlocks and residents said access had been restricted to Instagram – the only major social media platform that Iran usually allows and which has millions of users – and that some mobile phone networks had been shut down.

“Iran is now subject to the most severe internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre,” NetBlocks said.

WhatsApp users said they could only send text, not pictures, while Hengaw said access to the internet had been cut in Kurdistan province – moves that would hinder videos being shared from a region where the authorities have previously suppressed unrest by the Kurdish minority.

Meta Platforms, the owner of Instagram and WhatsApp, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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