Anti-regime chants in Iran as protests spread over death of woman blamed on police

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Protests in Iran reached the capital city of Iran’s Kurdistan province on Saturday, as the uproar sparked by the death of a young woman blamed on Tehran’s morality police continued to spread.

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Protesters in Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, shouted slogans – such as “death to the dictator” and “death to Khamenei” – against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and tore down a banner of slain commander Qassem Soleimani, videos shared on social media showed.

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who fell into a coma shortly after being arrested by Iran’s morality police on September 13 for “improper hijab” – that is, not fully covering her hair – died on Friday, prompting protests on social media and on the streets.

Tehran’s police said Amini “suddenly had a heart problem” while in detention, denying allegations that she was beaten by officers. Amini’s family have said she did not suffer from a heart or any other health condition prior to her arrest.

Another video from Sanandaj circulating on Twitter showed protesters tearing down a banner of Soleimani, the former head of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq on January 3, 2020, ordered by then President Donald Trump.

Soleimani was seen as Khamenei’s right hand man. Since Soleimani’s death, Iranian protesters have targeted him, including by shouting slogans against him and tearing down his banners, to express discontent with the regime.

“Saqqez is not alone,” protesters in Sanandaj chanted in another video, referring to protests earlier on Friday in the city of Saqqez, the hometown of Amini, also in Kurdistan province.

Protests had earlier on Friday broken out in Saqqez where Amini’s funeral took place, with demonstrators chanting anti-regime slogans.

Some women removed their headscarves during the protests in Saqqez to protest Iran’s mandatory hijab law, a video shared on Twitter showed.

Another video from Saqqez showed a nearly unconscious man bleeding from his head and being carried to a hospital. One person in the video could be heard saying he was “shot in the head,” while another person could be heard saying the injury was caused by birdshot.

Al Arabiya English could not independently verify the videos’ authenticity.

Hijab, which was made mandatory for women in Iran shortly after the country’s 1979 revolution, is considered a red line for Iran’s theocratic rulers. Women who break the strict dress code risk being harassed and arrested by Iran’s morality police.

Based on the dress code, women are required to fully cover their hair in public and wear long, loose-fitting clothes.

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