Iran’s parliamentary speaker warned Sunday that protests over the death of a young woman in police custody could destabilize the country and urged security forces to deal harshly with those he claimed endanger public order, as countrywide unrest entered its third week.
Posts on social media showed there were scattered anti-government protests in Tehran and running clashes with security forces in other towns Sunday, even as the government has moved to block, partly or entirely, internet connectivity in Iran.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf told lawmakers that unlike the current protests, which he said aim to topple the government, previous demonstrations by teachers and retirees over pay were aimed at reforms, according to the legislative body’s website.
“The important point of the (past) protests was that they were reform-seeking and not aimed at overthrowing” the system, said Qalibaf. “I ask all who have any (reasons to) protest not to allow their protest to turn into destabilizing and toppling” of institutions.
Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been detained by Iran’s morality police in the capital Tehran for allegedly not adhering to Iran’s strict Islamic dress code, The Associated Press reported.
The protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in Iran. The nationwide demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 revolution.
Iranian state TV has reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began Sept. 17.
Qalibaf said he believes many of those taking part in recent protests had no intention of seeking to overthrow the government in the beginning and claimed foreign-based opposition groups were fomenting protests aimed at tearing down the system. Iranian authorities have not presented evidence for their allegations of foreign involvement in the protests.
“Creating chaos in the streets will weaken social integrity, jeopardizing the economy while increasing pressure and sanctions by the enemy,” he said, referring to longstanding crippling US sanctions on Iran.
Protests resumed on Sunday in several cities including Mashhad, according to social media reports, and Tehran’s Sharif Industrial University, according to the semiofficial Tasnim news agency.
Witnesses said security was tight in the areas nearby Tehran University and its neighborhoods downtown as hundreds of anti-riot police and plain clothes with their cars and motorbikes were stationed on junctions and squares.