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.
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.
“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.
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.