Iranian lawmakers chanted “Thank you, police,” despite growing public anger over the woman’s death

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian lawmakers chanted “Thank you, police” during a parliamentary session on Sunday in a show of support for a fierce crackdown on widespread anti-government protests over the killing of a young woman in police custody.

The protests, which erupted after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini from Iranian Kurdistan, have turned into the biggest show of opposition to Iranian authorities in years, with many calling for an end to more than four decades of Islamic cleric rule.

A video recording broadcast by Iranian state media showed, pledging allegiance to the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, deputies chanted: “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader.”

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At least 52 people have died in the crackdown, according to a tally released by Amnesty International. Iranian authorities say many members of the security forces have been killed by “rioters and thugs supported by foreign enemies”.

Khamenei did not comment on the protests, which began at Amini’s funeral on September 17 and quickly spread to 31 Iranian provinces, with the participation of all strata of society, including ethnic and religious minorities.

Several prominent footballers who are stars in Iran and around Asia, including former Iran national team captain, Ali Daei, have criticized the crackdown on protesters. Some social media posts have indicated that Daei has been banned from leaving Iran. Reuters was unable to confirm the news.

The protests have not subsided despite a mounting death toll, repression by security forces using tear gas, batons and, in some cases, according to videos on social media and rights groups, live ammunition.

Videos on social media showed demonstrations in several cities such as Kermanshah, Shiraz and Mashhad on Sunday, with participants chanting “Independence, freedom and death to Khamenei.”

An activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, which has more than 160,000 followers, posted a video of protesters in downtown Isfahan calling for a nationwide strike and a roadblock to bring truck drivers into their ranks. Reuters was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.

Iranian state media released a video clip of pro-government students gathering at Ferdowsi University in Mashhad chanting, “The Islamic Republic is our red line.”

Die in a coma

Amini was arrested on September 13 in Tehran on charges of “improper clothing” by the morality police who enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. She died three days later in the hospital after falling into a coma.

Amini’s family lawyer, Salih Naqbakht, told the semi-official Etimad Online news website that “respectful doctors” believed she was beaten in custody. Amini’s autopsy report and other medical details have not been released, but her father said he saw bruises on her leg and that other women detained with her said she had been beaten.

Iranian police say Amini died of a heart attack and deny being beaten to death in custody.

The country’s hardline president, Ibrahim Raisi, has ordered an investigation into Amini’s death. He said last week that the forensic report would be submitted in “the coming days”.

On Friday, Amnesty International reported that 52 people were killed in the protests, hundreds injured and thousands arrested. Iranian state media said last week that 41 people, including security forces, had been killed.

Amini’s death and the crackdown have drawn international criticism of Iran’s rulers, who in turn accuse the United States and some European countries of exploiting the unrest to try to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

Last week, Iran said it had arrested nine people from Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and other countries for their role in the protests.

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Written by Parisa Hafezi. Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Frank Jack Daniel

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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