Outraged Iranians and security forces clash across the country, sparked by the mysterious death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, after she was detained on Sept. 13 for allegedly violating a strict hijab rule.
She died three days later in police custody; authorities said she had a heart attack but hadn’t been harmed, according to The Associated Press. Amini’s family rejects that explanation, and witnesses said they saw her beaten in the detention van, which authorities deny happening.
The New York Times reported that as of Friday, protests were surging in over 60 cities in Iran, and that the death toll is rising. Protests started after her Sept. 17 funeral with videos showing confrontations with police, women removing and burning their state-mandated head covering and cutting their hair.
On Saturday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran must “deal decisively” with the tumult plaguing the country.
Internet access has been cut off in Iran, preventing the Iranian people from capturing the protests that have turned deadly. As of Friday, local media reported that the death toll had reached 35.
In the capital city of Tehran, video footage shows security forces shooting into the crowd of protesters; in Rasht, forces launched tear gas into apartments, the New York Times reported; in Oshnavieh, protesters took over the small city as security forces fled from the scene.
In his remarks before the U.N. on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “Today, we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.” On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions on the morality police for “serious human rights abuses” and accused the law enforcement unit of being “responsible” for the death of Mahsa Amini.
Also on Thursday, the Iranian government caused a nearly total internet blackout in the country. In response, on Friday the Treasury Department said it would provide a license to expand internet access to the country’s 80 million citizens. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday: “We took action today to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people, issuing a General License to provide them greater access to digital communications to counter the Iranian government’s censorship.”