The secretary general of the United Nations called on Wednesday Iranian security forces and demonstrators to avoid violence in the ongoing anti-government protests in the country.
Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the loss of life in the rallies, said a statement from his office as the death toll in the demonstrations reached 21 by Tuesday.
“The secretary general ... deplores the loss of life in the protests. He urges respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and that any demonstrations take place in a peaceful manner,” Guterres’ spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement.
“Further violence must be avoided.”
Earlier, the UN human rights chief called on Iran to rein in security forces to avoid further violence and respect the right of protesters to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that more than 20 had been killed and hundreds arrested across Iran in the past week and he urged "thorough, independent and impartial investigations of all acts of violence that have taken place".
Protesters "have a right to be heard", he said.
There must be "a concerted effort by the authorities to ensure that all security forces respond in a manner that is proportionate and strictly necessary, and fully in line with international law".
The protests, which began last week out of frustration over economic hardships suffered by the youth and working class, have evolved into a rising against the powers and privileges of a remote elite especially Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Defying threats from the judiciary of execution if convicted of rioting, protests resumed after nightfall with hundreds hitting the streets of Malayer in Hamadan province chanting: "People are begging, the supreme leader is acting like God!"
Videos carried by social media showed protesters in the northern town of Nowshahr shouted "death to the dictator" – an apparent reference to Khamenei.