Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said on Friday that nine foreign nationals had been arrested in connection with the ongoing protests that broke out after a young woman died in police custody.
The ministry said that citizens from Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries had been detained “during the riots or while plotting in the background.”
The country has been rocked by widespread protests for three weeks. Protesters have often been met with violence from security forces leading to dozens of recorded deaths.
Why are people protesting in Iran?
Protests began three weeks ago, triggered by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. She had been arrested by Iran’s notorious morality police for allegedly wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf too loosely.
Amini’s family said she was beaten to death while government officials have claimed she died of a heart attack.
In response, women began ceremoniously removing their headscarves in public and cutting their hair in protest against the strict rules on women’s dress and general behavior.
Despite a government-induced internet blackout, videos of large protests made their way online with some showing protesters setting up barricades in the street.
Tehran has repeatedly referred to the movement as riots, and according to a report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Friday, leaked government documents called on security forces to “severely confront” the protesters.
The report also said that 52 people had been killed since the protests began.
Iran in turmoil
There were further signs of instability on Friday after protests were reported in the northern city of Ardabil and the southwestern city of Ahvaz — with some protesters chanting “death to the dictator.”
In the largely Sunni province of Sistan-Baluchistan in the southeast of Iran, on the border with Pakistan, police came under attack from a group of gunmen.
Provincial police chief Ahmad Taheri said that three stations in the city of Zahedan had come under fire from bullets and Molotov cocktails. State media reported that several officers were injured.
The ongoing protests are the biggest in years, but Iran’s conservative leaders have shown themselves capable of violently clamping down on dissent in the past.
The last major outbreak of protests in 2019 was met with a severe government crackdown in which roughly 1,500 people were killed.
ab/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters)
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