They did so in response to a call from the authorities. It comes after a week of bloody protests.
Thousands of people responded this Friday in Iran to the call of the authorities and took to the streets to defend the use of the veil and denounce “mercenaries”after a week of protests that left at least 17 dead and were sparked by the death of a young woman.
While abroad the NGOs denounce a “brutal” repression of the demonstrations, the authorities continued to block access to WhatsApp and Instagram this Friday.
Mahsa Amini, 22, was arrested on 13 September in Tehran by Iran’s morality police – charged with enforcing the strict dress code – for dressing “inappropriately”.
Three days later he died in hospital and his death sparked nightly protests in Iran’s major cities, including its capital Tehran.
A state media reported on Thursday the death of 17 people in the demonstrations, but according to the NGO Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), based in New York, the figures are even higher, up to 36 dead.
“The government responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas, according to videos shared on social media,” CHRI said in a statement.
The Kurdish human rights organization Hengaw indicated for its part that the security forces fired during the night from Thursday to Friday with “medium-heavy weapons” against protesters in the city of Oshnavieh (northwest).
In several cities, protesters clashed with security forces, burned police vehicles and chanted anti-government slogans, according to media and activists.
Police arrested an unknown number of people, Iranian media reported. Among them are the activist Majid Tavakoli and the journalist Nilufar Hamedi, according to their relatives.
Images of Iranian women setting their veils on fire have gone viral on social media.
In Iran, women must cover their hair and are not allowed to wear short or tight coats or jeans with holes.
From New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly, President Ebrahim Raisi called “differentiate between protesters and vandalism” and promised an investigation into the young woman’s death.
The authorities, who describe the demonstrators as “counter-revolutionaries”, “troublemakers” or “conspirators”, decided to organize their own demonstrations after Friday prayers.
Summoned by an entity that organizes official events, thousands of people marched in various cities in Iran, particularly in Tehran, but also in Qom (north) or Isfahan (center).
In the capital, hundreds of people, including women in chadors, demonstrated with Iranian flags and banners of support and thanks to the police, according to state television.
“Death to the conspirators”, “Advocating the end of the veil is American policy”, were some of the slogans.
The Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, praised the “efforts and sacrifices of the police” and said that the recent “conspiracy of the enemy” is “doomed to failure”.
Authorities announced on Thursday the death of five members of the security forces.
The head of the Judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, warned Thursday that “those who have damaged public and government property, disobeyed the police or been linked to foreign espionage services” should be treated “without any leniency.”
After the start of the protests on the night of September 16, the government limited Internet access and since Wednesday blocked Instagram and WhatsApp a measure against “the actions through these social networks of counterrevolutionaries against national security,” according to the Fars agency.