Iran’s defiant protesters face mounted police as death toll from crackdown tops 300
Iran has deployed mounted police in a bid to contain more than seven weeks of protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, according to videos posted online. The clerical state has been rocked by a protest movement that erupted when Amini, 22, died after her arrest for allegedly breaking Iran’s strict hijab dress rules for women.
Young women have led the way, removing and burning their head coverings, chanting anti-regime slogans and confronting security forces on the street despite a crackdown that has killed more than 300 people, according to Norway based monitoring group.
In a rare move, the authorities have deployed a posse of police on horseback in Tehran’s streets to stifle the demonstrations, according to a video posted on social media and verified by AFP. The special unit is seen standing in front of a row of Iranian national flags on a major road in the northwest Tehran neighborhood of Sadeghiyeh.
Created in 2013, the mounted division of Iran’s police force — known as Asvaran — has been seen on the streets of the Iranian capital in the past, mainly during parades, but it is uncommon to see it deployed during protests.
Amini, an Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16, three days after she was arrested in Tehran by the morality police, igniting nationwide protests.
The Iranian authorities have adopted a range of tactics in a bid to suppress the protests, which officials refer to as “riots.”
Security forces have fired directly on protesters using live ammunition, bird shot, tear gas and even paintballs. The government has also imposed internet restrictions, including blocking access to Instagram and WhatsApp, and has waged a campaign of mass arrests.
Norway-based group Iran Human Rights, which relies on a network of sources inside Iran, said in its latest update on Saturday that the security forces had killed at least 304 people in the crackdown on the nationwide protests since they erupted in mid-September, including 41 children and 24 women.
The group’s director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, said in the statement that despite the high death toll, “Iranians continue taking to the streets and are more determined than ever to bring fundamental changes. The response from the Islamic Republic is more violence.”
He called on the international community to pressure Iran to end the crackdown on the protesters.
Hundreds of people have been swept up in the wave of arrests, including protesters, journalists and activists.
On Tuesday, Iran’s judiciary said more than 1,000 people had been formally indicted over their role in the protests, and a spokesman vowed to deal with them severely.
“Now, the public, even protesters who are not supportive of riots, demand from the judiciary and security institutions to deal with the few people who have caused disturbances in a firm, deterrent and legal manner,” judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Among the latest members of Iran’s beleaguered civil society to face charges were two female journalists accused of propaganda against the state.
Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, who have both been behind bars for than a month already, “have been remanded in custody for propaganda against the system and conspiring against national security,” Setayeshi said on Tuesday.
Hamedi, 30, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, was arrested on September 20 after she visited the hospital where Amini spent three days in a coma before her death.
Mohammadi, 35, a reporter for the Ham Mihan newspaper, was arrested on September 29 after she travelled to Amini’s hometown of Saqez in Kurdistan province to cover her funeral.
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