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Death toll in Iran rises as Mahsa Amini protests persists

Iran’s official death toll more than doubled to 35 Saturday as a violent crackdown by Iran’s security forces continued to brutalize anti-regime protesters on the eighth straight day of demonstrations.

State media acknowledged the increase in its official toll from the 17 dead — including five security officers — it had previously claimed, the Times of Israel reported.

But Oslo-based Iran Human Rights estimated that at least 50 dissidents have been killed in the ongoing protests, while Amnesty International denounced “a harrowing pattern of Iranian security forces deliberately and unlawfully firing live ammunition at protesters.”

The group said it had reviewed video footage proving that “on the night of 21 September alone, shootings by security forces left at least 19 people dead, including at least three children.” It is continuing to investigate reports of additional deaths.

Demonstrations have erupted across the country since Mahsa Amini, 22, died in state custody last week after being arrested by the feared Morality Police for letting her hair peek out from under her headscarf — violating the strict women’s dress code enforced by the regime’s harsh morality police.

Demonstrators light a barrier on fire during a protest in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 21, 2022.
Demonstrators light a barrier on fire during a protest in Tehran, Iran on Sept. 21, 2022.
Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A group of students burned some veils as a form of protest. Protest in front of the embassy of Iran organized by Iranian students living in Rome to protest against violence of Iranian regime and against death of Mahsa Amini, girl who died in Iran on September 16 after being arrested by the Tehran police for not wearing the veil correctly.
Human rights groups claim at least 50 Iranian protesters have been killed so far.
Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Saturday — one day after pro-government demonstrators hit the streets demanding executions for those protesting Amini’s death — Tehran University students gathered to defiantly chant “Death to the dictator,” according to a video posted by the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Another Saturday protest was captured in a video filmed in Gilan province, about 200 miles north of the capital Tehran, whose police chief announced 739 arrests since the demonstrations began Sept. 16.

US-based Iranian activist Masih Alinejad, whose “White Wednesdays” protest movement connected her with hundreds of dissidents, posted a clip of a young woman with a bleached-blond mane tying her uncovered hair into a bun.

Iranians stage a demonstration in support of the Iranian government and security forces after protests broke out following the death of a 22-year-old woman under custody in Tehran, Iran on September 23, 2022.
Approximately 35 people have died amid demonstrations against Iran’s morality police after the death of Mahsa Amini.
Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“This Iranian woman is getting ready to stand face to face to security forces,” Alinejad tweeted. “Iranian regime have guns and bullets but they scared of our hair. … Let’s have a Hair Revolution.”

But with Internet access all but eliminated by Iranian authorities, information from the ground was sparse.

Hardline President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday decried the protests as “riots” organized by Iran’s “enemies” — signaling that violent attacks on demonstrators will continue.

People protest in front of Iran’s embassy in Rome, Italy on Sept. 23, 2022.
People protest in front of Iran’s embassy in Rome, Italy on Sept. 23, 2022.
Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquillity,” Raisi said, state media reported.

The protests spread across the border into neighboring Iraq Saturday, where exiled Iranian Kurds, many carrying posters with Amini’s photograph, shouted “Women, Life, Freedom” at a demonstration outside the United Nations compound in the northern city of Erbil.

“We are not against religion, and we are not against Islam,” said protester Maysoon Majidi. “We want religion to be separate from politics.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched a cross-border artillery attack on opposition bases in largely Kurdish northern Iraq Saturday, according to Iranian state television, claiming that Iranian Kurdish dissidents were behind the ongoing unrest.

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