Iran stepped up pressure on celebrities and journalists on Thursday amid wave of women-led protests sparked by outrage over the death of Mahsa Amini, after being arrested by the morality police of the Islamic Republic. Iranian security forces’ crackdown on protesters and those who support them has left 83 people dead, according to the Norway-based Iranian human rights organization.
Filmmakers, athletes, musicians and actors backed the protests, and many saw it as a signal as the national football team remained in their black tracksuits as anthems were played ahead of a game in Vienna against Senegal .
“We will take action against the celebrities who fanned the flames of the riots,” Tehran provincial governor Mohsen Mansouri said, according to the ISNA news agency.
Iran’s justice chief, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, also claimed that “those who rose to fame through the support of the system joined the enemy when times were tough.”
The warnings came after nearly two weeks of protests across Iran and a deadly crackdown that human rights group Amnesty International said was marked by “ruthless violence by security forces”.
Public anger erupted after the death of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, on September 16, three days after her arrest for allegedly breaking Iran’s strict rules for women regarding wearing the hijab and modest clothes.
“Woman, Life, Freedom!” Protesters have chanted since then, in Iran’s largest protests in nearly three years, in which women have defiantly burned their headscarves and cut their hair. Parallel protests took place for days in major cities around the world, often outside Iranian embassies and consulates.
President Ebrahim Raisi has warned that despite “grief and sadness” over Amini’s death, public security “is the red line of the Islamic Republic of Iran and no one is allowed to break the law and to sow chaos”.
Iran on Thursday arrested journalist Elahe Mohammadi, who had covered Amini’s funeral, her lawyer said, the latest of a growing number of journalists to be arrested. Police also arrested journalist Niloufar Hamedi of the reformist daily Shargh, who went to the hospital where Amini lay in a coma and helped expose the case to the world.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday that three more journalists – Farshid Ghorbanpour, Aria Jaffari and Mobin Balouch – had been arrested, bringing the total behind bars to 28.
Intelligence officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrested 50 members of ‘an organized network’ behind the ‘riots’ in the Shia holy city of Qom, the guards said, according to the news agency. Fars.
Some Iranian celebrities were among those said to have been swept away in the arrests, in addition to a musician and singer named Shervin Hajipour who was little known before the unrest broke out. He posted a video of himself singing a song made up entirely of protest tweet messages, which garnered tens of millions of views on Instagram before he would have been arrested and forced to remove him from the platform.
Other Instagram users reposted Hajipour’s song in support.
A former professional soccer player was also arrested for supporting the protests, state media reported.
“Former Persepolis FC player Hossein Maahini has been arrested on the orders of judicial authorities for supporting and encouraging riots on his social media pages,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
On Thursday, Tehran Provincial Governor Mohsen Mansouri warned celebrities against supporting the protests.
“We will take action against the celebrities who fanned the flames of the riots,” he said according to the ISNA news agency.
Amnesty International, based in London, criticized Iran’s “widespread patterns of unlawful use of force and ruthless violence by security forces”.
He said this included the use of live ammunition and metal pellets, severe beatings and sexual violence against women, all “under the guise of deliberate internet and mobile phone disruptions”.
“Dozens of people, including children, have been killed so far and hundreds injured,” said the group’s general secretary, Agnès Callamard.
Iran’s Fars news agency said “about 60” people had been killed, while the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group reported at least 76 dead.
Iran has accused outside forces of being behind the protests and on Wednesday launched cross-border missile and drone strikes that killed 13 people in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, accusing armed groups based there of to fuel the unrest.
The United States said on Thursday that one of its citizens had been killed in the Iranian strikes, separately announcing the new application of sanctions on Tehran’s oil sales.
Iran’s economy has been decimated for years by punitive sanctions imposed by the West for its disputed nuclear program.
On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she was “doing everything” to push for European Union sanctions against those who “beat women to death and shoot protesters in the name of religion”.
The Iranian government has sought to downplay the crisis.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he told Western diplomats at recent UN meetings that the protests were “not a big deal” for the stability of the clerical state.
“There will be no regime change in Iran,” he told National Public Radio in New York on Wednesday. “Don’t play with the emotions of the Iranian people.”