Iran's Raisi calls protests ‘chaos’ as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe cuts hair in support

Authorities vow to confront protesters 'with all their might' with unrest flaring for 12th night

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Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi described protests over the death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini as “chaos”.

The 22-year-old died on September 16 while in the custody of the country's so-called morality police — three days after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran's strict rules for women on wearing hijab and modest clothing.

“Those who took part in the riots must be dealt with decisively. This is the demand of the people,” said Mr Raisi in an interview with state TV on Wednesday.

“People's safety is the red line of the Islamic republic of Iran and no one is allowed to break the law and cause chaos.”

He accused foreign powers of stoking the unrest.

“The enemy has targeted national unity and wants to pit people against each other,” he said.

Mr Raisi said the nation had felt “grief and sorrow” over her death, and that forensics and judiciary experts would soon present a final report, but also warned that “protests are different to riots”.

With the protests now raging for 12 nights, Iran's police command vowed its forces would confront them “with all their might”.

Iran blames the unrest on “counter-revolutionary” Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq — across from Iran's Kurdistan province Amini hailed from, and where the protests first flared.

The Revolutionary Guard-linked Fars news agency said on Tuesday that “around 60" people had been killed since Amini's death. But the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group says at least 76 people have been killed so far.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe cuts hair

The death of Amini has sparked a solidarity campaign led by Iranian women and men overseas.

In the latest sign of support to the women-led protests, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who spent six years in jail in Iran, cut her hair in a video shared on the BBC Persian service.

“Woman, Life, Freedom!” the protesters have chanted in Iran's biggest demonstrations in almost three years, in which women have defiantly burnt their headscarves and cut off their hair.

Amini's bereaved parents have filed a complaint, demanding “a thorough investigation” and the release of “all videos and photographs” of her while in custody, said their lawyer Saleh Nikbakht in statements carried by AFP.

Her family members have claimed on social media and in interviews with opposition media outlets that she died after a violent blow to the head.

The Iranian government, its economy already hit by sanctions over its nuclear programme, has sought to play down the crisis.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he told western diplomats at recent UN meetings that the protests were “not a big deal” for the stability of the clerical state.

“There is not going to be regime change in Iran. Don't play to the emotions of the Iranian people,” he told National Public Radio in New York. He also accused “outside elements” of stirring up violence.

Iran's response has drawn concern from the UN and condemnation from the around the world, with Germany and Spain summoning their Iranian ambassadors and the United States and Canada announcing new sanctions.

Taliban fire shots at rally

Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women's rally supporting the protests in Iran.

Chanting the same “Women, Life, Freedom!” mantra, about 25 Afghan women protested in front of the Iranian embassy in Kabul before being dispersed by Taliban forces, an AFP correspondent reported.

Female protesters carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it's our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!”

Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them up in front of the protesters.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 7:30 AM
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