Iran state body reports 200 dead in protests

 WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran state body reports 200 dead in protests, Raisi hails ‘freedoms’

The protests began over the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police

President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday hailed Iran’s Islamic Republic as a guarantor of rights and freedoms, defending the ruling system amid a crackdown on anti-government protests that the United Nations says has cost more than 300 lives.

A top state security body meanwhile said that 200 people, including members of the security forces, had lost their lives in the unrest, a figure significantly lower than that given by the world body and rights groups.

The protests, in their third month, were ignited by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police enforcing strict mandatory hijab rules.

The demonstrations have turned into a popular revolt by furious Iranians from all layers of society, posing one of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.

Meanwhile, a social media video appeared to show authorities demolishing the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, a climber who competed in an international contest without a headscarf in October. Rekabi later she had done so unintentionally, but she was widely assumed to have expressed support for the protests.

State media on Saturday quoted the head of the judiciary in northwestern Zanjan province as saying the ruling to demolish the villa had been issued four months ago as the family had failed to obtain a construction permit.

Unfazed by the brutal crackdown, protesters have raised slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and repeatedly demanded an end to the Islamic government.

Social media videos showed renewed protests late on Saturday in some parts of the capital Tehran, including the eastern Haft Howz area where protesters could be heard chanting: “Murderer Khamenei should be executed.” The footage could not be immediately verified.

The authorities blame the revolt on foreign enemies, including the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

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