A powerful Iranian cleric demanded firm action against demonstrators calling for the overthrow of the government on Friday after a young woman died while in police detention.
“Our security is our distinctive privilege. The Iranian people demand the harshest punishment for these barbaric rioters,” said Mohammad Javad Hajj Ali Akbari, a leader of prayers that are held on Fridays in Tehran before a large gathering.
“The people want the death of Mahsa Amini to be cleared up… so that enemies cannot take advantage of this incident.”
Amini, a 22-year-old woman from the Iranian Kurdish village of Saqez, was detained this month in Tehran by the morality police, who uphold the Islamic Republic’s rigorous dress code for women. She was accused of wearing “unsuitable attire.”
Her passing has sparked Iran’s first significant display of opposition since authorities put down demonstrations against an increase in gasoline prices in 2019. The protests swiftly turned into a populist uprising against the ecclesiastical elite.
Amnesty International reported on Friday that the government’s assault on protests has so far resulted in at least 52 fatalities and hundreds of injuries.
In a statement, Amnesty claimed to have received a copy of an official document that shows that the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces ordered commanders in every province to “severely confront” demonstrators who were deemed to be “troublemakers and anti-revolutionaries.”
Videos released on Twitter showed protesters screaming for the overthrow of the ecclesiastical elite despite the rising death toll and repression by the government.
More than 150,000 people follow the activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, which tweeted videos purportedly documenting protests in several locations, including Ahvaz in the southwest, Mashhad in the northeast, and Zahedan in the southeast, where people were allegedly attacking a police station.
Reuters was unable to confirm the footage.
Iran, however, rebuffed condemnation of its Wednesday missile and drone attack on the Iraqi Kurdistan area, which is home to armed Iranian dissident Kurdish groups. The United States called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Iran has repeatedly asked the Iraqi central government officials and regional authorities to prevent the activities of separatist and terrorist groups that are active against the Islamic Republic,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told state media.