Protests in Iran over woman’s death enter third week, top official warns of ‘government destabilization’

Dubai: Iran’s parliamentary speaker warned on Sunday that protests against the death of a young woman in police custody could destabilize the country and urged security forces to crack down on those he believes would endanger public order, as the nationwide unrest entered its third week.

Social media posts showed there were scattered anti-government protests in Tehran on Sunday and clashes with security forces in other cities, even as the government has blocked all or part of Iran’s internet connection.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf told lawmakers that unlike the current protests, which he says aim to overthrow the government, previous demonstrations by teachers and retirees over pay have focused on reform, according to the legislature’s website.

“The main point of the (past) protests was that they sought reforms and were not aimed at overthrowing the system,” Qalibaf said. “I ask anyone who (reasons to) protest not to allow their protest to result in destabilization and overthrow” of institutions.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been detained by Iran’s vice squad in the capital Tehran for allegedly failing to adhere to Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. The protesters have expressed anger at the treatment of women and the wider repression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the ecclesiastical establishment that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Also Read:Turkish singer Melek Mosso cuts her hair in support of Iran protests over Mahsa Amini’s death

Iranian state television has reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began on September 17. An Associated Press tally of official statements from authorities found at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 protesters arrested.

Qalibaf, the Speaker of Parliament, is a former influential commander of the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Along with the president and the head of the judiciary, he is one of three prominent officials dealing with all of the nation’s major issues.

The three meet regularly and sometimes with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all affairs of state.

Qalibaf said he believes many of those who took part in recent protests had no intention of overthrowing the government at the outset and claimed opposition groups based abroad were encouraging protests aimed at breaking down the system. Iranian authorities have provided no evidence for their allegations of foreign involvement in the protests.

“Creating chaos in the streets will weaken social integrity, jeopardize the economy and increase enemy pressure and sanctions,” he said, referring to the long-term crippling US sanctions against Iran.

Qalibaf promised to “change the morals police structures and methods” to prevent a repeat of what happened to Amini. She died in the custody of the vice squad. Her family claimed she was beaten, while officials claim she died of a heart attack.

His comments came after a closed session of Parliament and a brief meeting of lawmakers to show their support for Khamenei and the police as they chanted “death to hypocrites,” a reference to Iranian opposition groups.

Qalibaf’s statement is seen as a call to Iranians to end their protests while supporting the police and security apparatus.

Meanwhile, the hard-line Kayhan newspaper said on Sunday that protesters carrying knifes attacked the newspaper building on Saturday, smashing windows with stones. It said they left when Guard members were sent to the site.

On Saturday, protests continued on the Tehran University campus and in nearby neighborhoods, and witnesses said they saw many girls waving their headscarves over their heads as a gesture of defiance. Social media ran videos ostensibly showing similar protests at the universities of Mashhad and Shiraz, but The Associated Press was unable to independently verify their authenticity.

A protester near Tehran University, 19-year-old Fatemeh who only gave her first name for fear of repercussions, said she joined the demonstration “to deter this behavior by the police against younger people, especially girls.” stop’.
Abdolali, a 63-year-old teacher who also refused to give his last name, said he was shot twice in the foot by police. He said: “I am here to guide and support my daughter. I once participated in the 1979 Islamic revolution that promised justice and freedom; it is time to realize them.”

Protests resumed on Sunday in several cities, including Mashhad, according to social media reports, and the Sharif Industrial University in Tehran, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Witnesses said security was tight in areas near Tehran University and downtown neighborhoods as hundreds of anti-riot police and civilian clothes were stationed in intersections and squares with their cars and motorcycles. The AP could not directly verify the authenticity of the reports.

Also on Sunday, media reported the death of another Revolutionary Guardsman in the southeastern city of Zahedan. That brought the number of IRGC members killed in an attack on a police station by gunmen to five, in which 19 people were killed, according to state media.

It was not clear whether the attack, which Iranian authorities say was carried out by separatists, was linked to anti-government protests.

Local media said a police officer was also killed in the Kurdish city of Marivan, as a result of injuries sustained during clashes with protesters. The protests have drawn supporters from various ethnic groups, including Kurdish opposition movements in northwestern Iran that operate along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests broke out for the first time in Kurdish areas.

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