NEW YORK/DUBAI: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Thursday (Sep 22) that “acts of chaos” are not acceptable, in a warning to protesters who have taken to the streets across the country in fury over the death of a woman in the morality police’s custody.
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Raisi added he had ordered an investigation into the case of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died last week after being arrested for wearing “unsuitable attire”.
“There is freedom of expression in Iran … but acts of chaos are unacceptable,” said Raisi, who is facing the biggest protests in the Islamic Republic since 2019.
Women have played a prominent role in the demonstrations, waving and burning their veils, with some publicly cutting their hair in a direct challenge to clerical leaders.
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards called on the judiciary to prosecute “those who spread false news and rumours,” in an apparent bid to take the steam out of nationwide demonstrations.
In a statement, the Guards expressed sympathy for Amini’s family.
The Kurdish rights group Hengaw posted a video where heavy shooting can be heard during a protest and accused security forces of “using heavy and semi-heavy weapons against civilians” in the northwestern town of Oshnavieh.
Reuters could not verify the report.
Protesters in Tehran and other cities torched police stations and vehicles as outrage over Amini’s death showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces coming under attack.
A video on Twitter account 1500tasvir showed protests in the northwestern city of Bukan with sound of shots in background, as social media posts said demonstrations have spread to most of Iran’s 31 provinces.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry also tried to break the momentum of demonstrations, saying attendance at protests is illegal and anyone taking part would face prosecution, Iranian news websites reported.
Raisi said the extensive coverage of Amini’s case was the result of “double standards”.
“Every day in different countries, including the United States, we see men and women dying in police encounters, but there is no sensitivity about the cause and dealing with this violence,” he said.
WIDESPREAD REACTIONS TO IRANIAN PROTESTS
Pro-government protests are planned for Friday and some marchers have already taken to the streets, Iranian media said.
The United States on Thursday sanctioned Iran’s morality police, accusing them of abuse and violence against Iranian women and of violating the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters, the US Treasury said.
Most of the unrest has been concentrated in Iran’s Kurdish-populated northwest but has spread to the capital and at least 50 cities and towns, with police using force to disperse protesters. Amini was from the province of Kurdistan.