Iranian police deploy to universities as unrest over Mahsa Amini’s death continues

  • Amini died in police custody after being arrested for her attire
  • More than 150 dead in protests that have spread abroad
  • The biggest popular challenge to the clerical elite in years

DUBAI, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Iranian security forces deployed to universities in several cities on Wednesday, witnesses said, stepping up efforts to quell more than two weeks of protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini , detained by the morality police.

The nationwide unrest sparked by his death has become the biggest challenge to Iran’s religious leaders in years, with protesters calling for the fall of the Islamic Republic founded in 1979.

Riot police were deployed in the cities of Urmia, Tabriz, Rasht and the capital Tehran, especially around universities which have been the focus of protests in recent days, witnesses said.

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“There are a lot of security forces around Tehran University. I am even afraid to leave the campus. There are many police vans waiting outside to arrest students,” said a student in Tehran.

Rights groups say thousands have been arrested and hundreds injured in the crackdown by security forces, including the Basij, a volunteer militia affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Rights groups put the death toll at more than 150.

Authorities have reported numerous deaths among security forces, accusing foreign adversaries, including the United States, of interfering in destabilizing Iran.

Videos shared on social media on Wednesday showed high school girls in Tehran removing their headscarves and chanting “Death to (Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei”.

In footage believed to have been filmed at a school in Shiraz on Tuesday, around 50 students surrounded a Basij member who had been asked to give a speech, shouting “Basij get lost” and “death to Khamenei”.

Reuters could not independently verify the videos.

People from different sections of society across Iran have joined the protests since To believean Iranian Kurd, died after being detained in Tehran September 13 for “inappropriate attire”.

The death of a 17-year-old girl since the protests began has become another focal point of protesters’ anger, with activists on Twitter claiming that Nika Shakarami was killed in Tehran while demonstrating against the death of Amini.

State media said on Wednesday that a court case had been opened in Shakarami’s death, citing officials saying it had nothing to do with the unrest, and that she fell from a roof and that his body showed no bullet wounds.


Analysts do not believe the clerical establishment is about to be toppled despite growing frustration over the strict social and political limitations imposed over the past four decades since the fall of the US-backed Shah.

The government has ordered an investigation into Amini’s death, which Khamenei said left him “heartbroken”.

But underscoring the government’s inflexible views, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi accused protesters of creating “ugly scenes” in the name of women’s rights.

Vahidi, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force, defended the dress code law, saying protesters saw “freedom in women’s nudity and shamelessness”.

Amini’s death and crackdown have heightened tensions in Iran’s already rocky relationship with the West, deepening differences at a time when talks to revive the Tehran deal in 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have stalled.

Iran has summoned several ambassadors from Western countries whom it accuses of meddling or playing a role in the unrest.

State media reported that the British ambassador, already summoned once, was summoned again on Tuesday in response to “interventionist remarks” from the British Foreign Office.

As a sign of growing international support this week, main actresses in France as Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert cut their locks of hair in protest against the death of Amini, and a Swedish member of the European Parliament cut her ponytail while giving a speech.

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Written by Tom Perry; edited by John Stonestreet and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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