More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general

TEHRAN (AFP): Iran has for the first time reported that more than 300 people have died in over two months of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

The Islamic republic has deployed state security forces against what it labels “riots” that broke out after the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian died on September 16, three days after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s dress code for women.

“Everyone in the country has been affected by the death of this lady,” said Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajjizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a video published by the Mehr news agency.

“I don’t have the latest figures, but I think we have had perhaps more than 300 martyrs and people killed,” among them some of “the best sons of the country,” said Hajjizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division.

The toll includes those who have taken to the streets as well as dozens of police, troops and IRGC militia who have died in clashes with demonstrators or who were killed elsewhere.

The latest official death toll is much closer to the figure of at least 416 people “killed in the suppression of protests in Iran” published by the Oslo-based non-government group Iran Human Rights.

The group says its toll includes those killed in violence related to the Amini protests and in distinct unrest in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Thousands of Iranians and around 40 foreigners have been arrested and more than 2,000 people have been charged, according to judicial authorities.

Among these, six have been sentenced to death, with their appeals set to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that overthrew the monarchy, Iranian law requires all women to wear modest dress and a hijab head covering that conceals their hair, rules enforced by morality police squads that patrol public places.

Over the past two decades, however, many women, especially in Tehran and other major cities, have shown more of their hair, before the rules were tightened again — a flashpoint issue in the protests.

Iran has blamed its enemies for the civil unrest, pointing at the United States, other Western powers and Israel, as well as exiled Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups based in northern Iraq whom it has hit with repeated missiles and drone strikes.

Amid the heightened tensions, Iran’s national football team will play the US side at the World Cup in Qatar from 1900 GMT Tuesday — a match seen as highly political between the countries that have had no diplomatic relations since 1980.

Iran’s judicial authorities Tuesday announced the release of more than 1,100 detainees in 20 provinces, including protesters, following Iran’s World Cup win Friday against Wales, the Mizan Online news agency reported.