The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Iran president threatens ‘decisive’ response as protests continue

Iranian demonstrators burning their headscarves and setting fire to a trash bin in Tehran on Friday. (UGC/AFP/Getty Images)

Protests continued in Tehran and other Iranian cities Sunday for a 10th day, with videos emerging of large demonstrations despite tightening internet restrictions and an expanding clampdown by security forces, monitoring groups said.

The protests started after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died after being detained by Iran’s morality police this month, amid allegations by her family that she had been beaten.

The demonstrations — outpourings of anger over the harsh strictures on women’s dress that led to Amini’s arrest and vehicles for more deeply rooted complaints against Iran’s clerical establishment — have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces and are the largest since nationwide demonstrations three years ago that were met with a deadly security response that killed hundreds.

Anger against Iran’s ‘morality police’ erupts after death of Mahsa Amini

In the latest protests, at least 41 people have been killed, according to Iran’s state media, including police officers. A tightening crackdown has included the use of live ammunition against demonstrators and heavy deployments of security forces in Kurdish areas of western Iran, where the protests have been concentrated.

As of Sunday, at least 18 journalists had been arrested during the unrest, including several who were taken into custody during early morning raids on their homes, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi threatened a harsh response Saturday, vowing a “decisive strike on the disrupters of security and peace of the country,” in a phone call with the family of a slain member of the security forces, local Iranian news outlets reported.

On Sunday, Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s interior minister, called on the judiciary to pursue a “quick, decisive, legal confrontation with the leaders and agents of these riots that will teach others a lesson,” according to Hamshahri, a state-run newspaper.

Videos circulated on Saturday and Sunday showed protests in several areas of Tehran, as well as in Shiraz, in southern Iran, and Fardis, west of the capital. In one protest in Sattar Khan, a central neighborhood in Tehran, a crowd gathered around what was reported to be a burning police motorcycle, chanting “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we are all together,” according to a video posted by 1500 Tasvir, an anti-government monitoring group.

The group said in a text message that the pace of protest videos emerging from Iran had slowed late Saturday into Sunday, in part because of internet disruptions imposed by the authorities over the past week, as well as restrictions on apps including Instagram and WhatsApp. NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, said Sunday evening that it had detected a “nation-scale disruption to Mobinet,” one of the largest mobile network operators in Iran.

In Kurdish areas of western Iran, where Amini was from, cities have become “heavily militarized” by the security forces, said Rebin Rahmani, member of the board of directors of the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, based in Paris.

Videos show Iran’s violent crackdown as protests intensify

The cities of Kermanshah, Kamyaran, Sanandaj, Saqqez, Divandarreh and Oshnavieh were “under tight security control,” he said. Oshnavieh had been shut down for three days, he said, after a “horrible incident where several people were killed Wednesday night.” He denied earlier reports that protesters had routed security forces in the city.

In a rural area called Balo, near Iran’s border with Turkey, families of protesters who were killed last week set fire to a base used Thursday by the Basij paramilitary forces, Rahmani said.

“We haven’t received any videos today,” he said. “Because the internet is cut it’s very difficult to get any news.” Arrests were being carried out based on previously recorded videos of the protests, he added.

As the internet blackout obscured events in Iran, news of the death of a lone protester, a woman, that circulated widely over the weekend sparked fresh anger.

Human rights activists and Farsi-language media outlets said the woman’s name was Hadis Najafi and linked her to an earlier video in which a woman is seen tying her blond, uncovered hair in a ponytail on the edge of a protest said to be in Karaj, northwest of Tehran. They said Najafi was fatally shot by security forces Wednesday.

But little in Iran these days is clear: By Monday morning, a woman who said she was the person seen tying her hair indicated she was alive and well, in an interview with BBC Persian. “I am the girl who ties her hair with bravery and walks to the heart of the protests. I am not Hadis Najafi but I fight for Hadises and Mahsas. Don’t scare us with death,” she said.