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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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    Iran curbs Internet access as protests claim 11 lives

    PARIS (AFP) – Iran restricted Internet access yesterday after days of protests which have claimed at least 11 lives, following the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police.

    Public anger has flared in the country since authorities last Friday announced the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” way.

    Activists said the woman, whose Kurdish first name is Jhina, had suffered a fatal blow to the head, a claim denied by officials, who have announced an investigation.

    Iranian state media reported that by Wednesday street rallies had spread to 15 cities, with police using tear gas and making arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people.

    In southern Iran, video footage purportedly from Wednesday showed demonstrators setting fire to a gigantic picture on the side of a building of general Qassem Soleimani, the revered Revolutionary Guards commander killed in a 2020 United States strike in Iraq.

    Protesters chant slogans in downtown Tehran, Iran. PHOTO: AP

    Demonstrators hurled stones at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and garbage bins, and chanted anti-government slogans, the official IRNA news agency said.

    Protesters could be heard shouting in video footage that spread beyond Iran, despite online restrictions first reported by Internet access monitor Netblocks.

    Iran moved to further block access to Instagram and WhatsApp yesterday.

    “In accordance with a decision by officials, it has no longer been possible to access Instagram in Iran since yesterday (Wednesday) evening and access to WhatsApp is also disrupted,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

    The two apps were the most widely-used in Iran after the blocking of other platforms in recent years, including Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok.

    Yesterday, Iranian media said three militiamen “mobilised to deal with rioters” were stabbed or shot dead in northwestern Tabriz, central Qazvin and northeastern Mashhad.

    A fourth member of the security forces died in the southern city of Shiraz, Iranian news agencies reported, adding that a protester was stabbed to death in Qazvin, adding to six protester deaths already announced by officials.

    But there were fears the death toll could rise, as Norway-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw on Wednesday also reported the deaths of two protesters, aged 16 and 23, in West Azerbaijan province.

    The Iranian authorities have denied any involvement in the deaths of protesters.

    Amnesty International said it has recorded the deaths of eight people – six men, one woman and a child – with four of them shot by security forces at close range with metal pellets.

    The London-based rights group denounced the United Nations for giving a platform to Raisi, saying it showed “the repeated failure” of the international community to ensure accountability.

    British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told AFP “the Iranian leadership should notice that the people are unhappy with the direction that they have taken”.

    The protests are among the most serious in Iran since November 2019 unrest over fuel price

    rises. The wave of unrest over Amini’s death “is a very significant shock, it is a societal crisis”, said Iran expert David Rigoulet-Roze of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

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