Iranian President to address nation as unrest spreads

Death toll rising as protests spread to over 80 cities



AP file photo
AP file photo

By Reuters

Published: Wed 28 Sep 2022, 8:21 PM

Hardline President Ebrahim Raisi has planned a television address to the nation on Wednesday amid a tide of anti-government unrest in Iran, with protesters chanting "death to the dictator", after the death of a young woman in police custody.

Despite a growing death toll and a fierce crackdown by security forces using tear gas, clubs and, in some cases, live ammunition, social media videos showed Iranians persisting with protests, often calling for the end of the Islamic clerical establishment's more than four decades in power.

Still, a collapse of the Islamic Republic seems remote in the near term since its leaders are determined not to show the kind of weakness they believe sealed the fate of the US-backed Shah in 1979, a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

Raisi, who last week said the protests over Mahsa Amini's death were unacceptable "acts of chaos", will speak to the nation later in the day, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

"The president will talk about the most important domestic and foreign issues facing the country in his live TV interview tonight," ISNA said, without elaborating.

Angry demonstrations have spread to over 80 cities nationwide since the Sept. 13 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for "unsuitable attire" by the morality police who enforce the Islamic Republic's strict dress code.

Amini, who was from the northwestern Kurdish city of Saqez, died in hospital after falling into a coma, sparking the first big show of dissent on Iran's streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in gasoline prices in 2019.

"We will fight, we will die, we will take Iran back," chanted protesters in Tehran's Ekbatan neighbourhood, a video posted on Twitter showed.

A video from the southeastern port city of Chabahar showed riot police firing tear gas to disperse protesters.

State media said 41 people, including members of the police and a pro-government militia, have died during the protests. Iranian human rights groups have reported a higher toll.

Dozens of Iranian celebrities, soccer players and artists - inside and outside the country - have backed the demonstrations while activists have called for a nationwide strike.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Iran's clerical rulers to "fully respect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association".

U.N. human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said on Tuesday reports indicated "hundreds have also been arrested, including human rights defenders, lawyers, civil society activists and at least 18 journalists".


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