DUBAI (Reuters) -Protesters rallied across Iran and strikes were reported throughout the country’s Kurdish region on Saturday as demonstrations ignited by the death of a woman in police custody entered their third week.
The protests, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan, have spiralled into the biggest show of opposition to Iran’s clerical authorities since 2019, with dozens killed in unrest across the country.
People also demonstrated in London, Rome, Madrid and other Western cities in solidarity with Iranian protesters, holding pictures of Amini, who died three days after being arrested by the Islamic Republic’s morality police for “unsuitable attire”.
In Iran, social media posts showed rallies in large cities including Tehran, Isfahan, Rasht and Shiraz.
In Tehran’s traditional business district of Bazaar, anti-government protesters chanted “We will be killed one by one if we don’t unite”, while elsewhere they blocked a main road with a fence torn from the central reservation, videos shared by the widely followed Tavsir1500 Twitter account showed.
Students also demonstrated at numerous universities. At Tehran University, dozens were detained, Tavsir1500 said. The semi-official Fars news agency said some protesters were arrested in a square near the university.
A video posted on social media appeared to show protesters giving flowers to members of the riot police in Tehran, a recreation of Iranians winning over the military to their side in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Reuters could not verify the social media reports.
The protests began at Amini’s funeral on Sept. 17 and spread to Iran’s 31 provinces, with all layers of society, including ethnic and religious minorities, taking part and many demanding Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s downfall.
Amnesty International has said a government crackdown on demonstrations has so far led to the death of at least 52 people, with hundreds injured. Rights groups say dozens of activists, students and artists have been detained.
In London, about 2,500 people, many of them Iranians, staged a noisy protest in Trafalgar Square. In Paris, a crowd of several dozen people held Iranian flags and pictures of victims who have died in the protests. In Madrid, an Iranian woman cut her hair during a protest attended by dozens of people, echoing demonstrations in Iran where women have also been waving and burning their veils during demonstrations.
Iran’s currency neared historic lows reached in June as desperate Iranians bought dollars to protect their savings, amid little hope Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers would be revived and concerns over the economic consequences of the unrest.
The rial fell to 331,200 per U.S. dollar, compared with 321,200 on Friday, according to the foreign exchange site Bonbast.com. The currency had plummeted to an all-time low of 332,000 per dollar on June 12.
Iranian authorities say many members of the security forces have been killed, accusing the United States of exploiting the unrest to try to destabilise Iran.
The Revolutionary Guards said four members of its forces and the volunteer Basij militia were killed on Friday in attacks in Zahedan, capital of the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.
State television had said on Friday that 19 people, including members of the security forces, had been killed in Zahedan after unidentified individuals opened fire on a police station, prompting security forces to return fire.
Authorities blamed a separatist group from the Baluchi minority for starting the shootout in Zahedan. State media said two prominent militants linked to that group had been killed.
IRNA posted a video showing destroyed cars, an overturned and burning trailer or bus and fires in burnt-out buildings and shops, describing it as footage of “what the terrorists did to people’s shops last night in Zahedan”.
Reuters could not verify the footage.
Protests have been particularly intense in Iran’s Kurdistan region, where authorities have previously put down unrest by the Kurdish minority numbering up to 10 million.
Shops and businesses were on strike in 20 northwestern cities and towns in protest against attacks on Iraq-based armed Kurdish opposition parties by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Kurdish rights group Hengaw reported.
Fearing an ethnic uprising, and in a show of power, Iran launched rocket and drone attacks on targets in Iraq’s Kurdish region this week after accusing Iranian Kurdish dissidents of being involved in the unrest.
Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported new attacks by the Revolutionary Guards on Iraqi Kurdistan on Saturday.
A senior member of Komala, an exiled Iranian Kurdish opposition party, told Reuters that two party offices in Halgurd mountain in Iraq’s Erbil were struck in Iranian shelling.
A Kurdish security official said Iranian artillery also shelled Choman district in Erbil.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sultan in Sulaimaniya; Christian Hartmann and Anthony Panone in Paris and Yann Tessier in London, Marco Trujillo and Elena Rodriguez in Madrid; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Holmes)