The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in mysterious circumstances last week after being arrested by the Iranian moral police for allegedly wearing a headscarf incorrectly, has triggered a wave of protests across Iran. At least 17 people were killed, according to national and international media. A police officer and a member of a pro-government militia are also said to have died.

The Kurd Ribin Rahmani told DW: “In the province of Kurdistan alone, around 400 people were arrested by Wednesday September 21.” Rahmani lives in London and works for a network of Kurdish human rights activists.

22-year-old Mahsa lived in the small town of Saghes in the western province of Kurdistan. There were already protests at her funeral last Saturday. “We have the names, photos and addresses of at least eight killed protesters who were shot dead by the security forces up to yesterday,” Rahmani explains. “In the province of Kurdistan, the security forces are using massive violence against the demonstrators. They want to suppress the protests as quickly as possible.”

Internet has been severely restricted across the country since last night. Mobile networks are “largely switched off,” reports the organization NetBlocks, an organization founded in 2017 to monitor internet freedom. Access to Instagram, the only major social media platform still permitted in Iran, has been restricted and some cellphone networks have been shut down completely.

“Iran is now subject to the toughest internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre,” NetBlocks said. According to human rights organizations, around 1,500 people were killed in protests against rising petrol prices in 2019.

“I fear that worse things are ahead of us than what we experienced in 2019,” Saeed Dehghan, a human rights lawyer from Tehran, told DW. “The situation is very tense. Many people are angry and desperate. You feel like you have little to lose. They are suffering from the economic crisis and from everyday reprisals. Now the death of a young woman for allegedly violating the compulsory headscarf has erupted in anger and resentment at the political system. It is a serious internal crisis and the government has no other answer than further repression,” says Dehghan.

The human rights lawyer paints a bleak scenario: “We have a political system that is at constant war with its own people. The Internet shutdown has a clear purpose: the police and security forces will crack down on the demonstrations with all their might and massacre them. The world must not see the pictures of it.”

Acting UN human rights chief Nada Al-Nashif, meanwhile, has expressed her “concern at the death of Mahsa Amini in custody” and at the “violent response by the security forces against the ensuing demonstrations”. On Tuesday, Al-Nashif called for a “swift, independent and efficient investigation” into the 22-year-old’s death and “the allegations of torture and ill-treatment” against the police. “The Iranian government will not respond to that,” human rights lawyer Dehghan is certain. “They deny everything and act as if nothing happened. Just like President Raisi in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.”

In his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York yesterday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi emphasized the right of peoples to self-determination. With regard to Mahsa Amini’s death, Raisi accused the West of using “double standards” when it came to women’s rights. Among other things, he referred to the deaths of indigenous women in Canada in the past.

For London-based Iranian human rights researcher and author Azadeh Pourzad, Raisi’s speech was another desperate attempt to claim that the Islamic Republic was a rule of law and misunderstood by the West.

When asked by DW, Pourzad wrote: “The fact is that Raisi is a dangerous criminal on the run. A criminal hiding behind a head of state’s diplomatic immunity.” The exiled Iranian justifies her statement by pointing out that Raisi shared responsibility for the extrajudicial mass executions of thousands of political prisoners between July and September 1988. Raisi was Deputy Attorney General of Tehran at the time.

During Raisi’s New York speech, hundreds of Iranian exiles protested in front of the UN building

Author: Shabnam of Hein

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The original of this article “Iran’s leadership reacts to mass protests with censorship and violence” comes from Deutsche Welle.