On September 23, thousands of people marched in the streets of the Iranian capital, Tehran, to voice their support for the country’s Islamic government and condemn a wave of protests which Iranian officials claim they were orchestrated by foreign powers.
The Iranian media said that government supporters filled different streets in downtown Tehran after Friday prayers. Despite the heat, thousands of people gathered around Tehran University an hour ahead of time and were waiting for the start of the march.
Similar protests have been held in other cities across Iran to condemned what the government calls “western-backed rioters”.
The protests were triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman who was arrested for allegedly breaking Iran’s strict rules on wearing the hijab, the Islamic head covering for women. She died on September 16 while in police custody, allegedly suffering multiple blows to the head.
The police said that Amini died of a heart attack, describing her death as “unfortunate.” A video showing the woman collapsing of the alleged stroke during a seminar at a police station was released. However, protests continued in different parts of Iran.
Amini family said she had no pre-existing heart condition. In response, Iranian authorities promised a thorough investigation into her death.
According to Iranian state TV, 26 people, including members of the police, have been killed since the protests first erupted.
In a statement released on September 22, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps expressed sympathy for the family and relatives of Amini. At the same time, it called on the judiciary to prosecute people who are circulating “false news and rumors”, in an apparent bid to take the steam out of the protests.
“We have requested the judiciary to identify those who spread false news and rumors on social media as well as on the street and who endanger the psychological safety of society and to deal with them decisively,” the group said.
In an attempt to inflame the protests, the United States announced sanctions against Iran’s so-called “morality police” on September 22 for alleged abuses and violence against Iranian women and protesters.
Speaking during a news conference on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York on September 23, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that the death of Amini “must certainly be investigated”.
“I contacted her family at the very first opportunity and I assured them we would continue steadfastly to investigate that incident … Our utmost preoccupation is the safeguarding of the rights of every citizen,” the president said.
Of Amini’s death, Raisi said that authorities were doing what they needed to do and that responsibility now lay in the hands of the judiciary. The president went on to reveal that the initial coroner’s investigations into the death of Amini showed she died from heart failure or a brain stroke, and not a physical beating by the morality police.
The protests over Amini death slowed down over the last few days. However, acts of violence and riots are still being reported in different parts of Iran.
Despite Western support for the protesters, the situation will not likely escalate any further. The Iranian government serious efforts to investigate the death of Amini will likely calm the public down. Furthermore, the large pro-government march in Tehran confirms that not everyone in Iran is on the side of the protestors.
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