50 killed in Iran protest crackdown, says NGO; thousands join pro-hijab rallies
Hundreds of Iranians across at least 13 cities from Tehran to Mahsa Amini's hometown of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression. Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.
At least 50 people have been killed after Iranian security forces cracked down on protests which erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the morality police, Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO said on Friday, reported news agency AFP.
The NGO said the number of deaths went up after six people were killed by fire from the security forces in Rezvanshahr town, northern Gilan province, on Thursday night, with other deaths recorded in Babol and Amol, also in northern Iran. State TV, meanwhile, suggested the death toll from this week's unrest could be as high as 26.
There had been protests in some 80 cities and other urban centres since the demonstrations started one week ago, it added.
Anti-government protests across Iran
Iranian counterprotesters gathered across the country on Friday in a show of support for authorities after nearly a week of anti-government protests and unrest over the death of a young woman who was being held by the morality police.
A few thousand people attended a rally in the capital, Tehran, where they waved Iranian flags, and similar demonstrations were held in other cities. The government claimed the demonstrations of support were spontaneous. Similar rallies have been held during past periods of widespread protests.
The pro-government demonstrators chanted against America and Israel, according to state media, reflecting the official line that foreign countries are fomenting the latest unrest.
Why sudden unrest in Iran
The crisis unfolding in Iran began as a public outpouring of anger over the death of Amini, a young woman who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran last week for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. The police said she died of a heart attack and was not mistreated, but her family has cast doubt on that account.
Amini's death has sparked sharp condemnation from Western countries and the United Nations and touched a national nerve. Hundreds of Iranians across at least 13 cities from Tehran to Amini's northwest Kurdish hometown of Saqez have poured into the streets, voicing pent-up anger over social and political repression. Authorities have alleged that unnamed foreign countries and opposition groups are trying to foment unrest.
Videos on social media show protesters in Tehran torching a police car and confronting officers at close range. Elsewhere in the capital, videos show gunfire sounding out as protesters bolt from riot police, shouting: “They are shooting at people! Oh my God, they're killing people!”
(With inputs from agencies)