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HomeWorldAt least 9 dead as protests spread in Iran over the death...

At least 9 dead as protests spread in Iran over the death of a womanNews WAALI

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angered by the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since violence erupted over the weekend, according to a Thursday tally by The Associated Press.

Widespread outages of Instagram and WhatsApp, which protesters use to share information about the government’s ongoing crackdown on dissidents, continued on Thursday. Authorities also appeared to disrupt Internet access to the outside world, a tactic human rights activists say the government often uses during times of unrest.

The demonstrations in Iran began as an emotional outburst over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman being held by the country’s vice squad for allegedly violating a strictly enforced dress code. Her death has drawn strong condemnation from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. Police say she died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family have expressed doubts about that statement.

The protests have escalated into an open challenge to the government over the past four days, with women taking off their state-mandated headscarves in the streets and Iranians setting trash cans on fire and calling for the demise of the Islamic Republic itself.

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“Death to the dictator!” was a common cry at the protests.

Demonstrations have also rocked university campuses in Tehran and far western cities like Kermanshah. Though widespread, the unrest appears different from previous rounds of nationwide protests sparked by paperback troubles as Iran’s economy teeters under heavy US sanctions. The riots that broke out in 2019 over the government’s abrupt gas price hike mobilized masses of working-class people in small towns. Hundreds were killed as security forces crushed the deadliest violence since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to human rights groups.

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Iran’s state media this week reported demonstrations in at least 13 cities, including the capital Tehran, as protesters vented anger at social repression. Online videos show security forces firing tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests. London-based Amnesty International reported officers fired birdshots and beat protesters with batons.

At least nine people have died in the clashes, according to an AP tally based on statements by Iran’s state and semi-official media. Officials have blamed unnamed countries they say are trying to foment unrest.

In Amini’s home province in north-western Kurdistan, the provincial police chief said four demonstrators were killed by live gunshots. In Kermanshah, the prosecutor said two protesters were killed by opposition groups and insisted the bullets were not fired by Iranian security forces.

Meanwhile, three men from the Basij, a volunteer force of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, were also killed in clashes in the cities of Shiraz, Tabriz and Mashhad, semi-official media reported, bringing the death toll on both sides to nine.

As the protests spread, authorities shut down internet in parts of the country, according to NetBlocks, a London-based group that monitors internet access and called the restrictions the strictest since the November 2019 mass protests.

Iran has grappled with waves of protests in recent years, largely over a long-running economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions related to its nuclear program. Iranians also blame government corruption and mismanagement for soaring prices of basic goods, depreciating the currency and keeping unemployment high.

The Biden administration and European allies have been working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran restricted its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions lifting, but talks have been deadlocked for months.

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