DUBAI — Iranians enraged over the death of a young woman in police custody braved bullets and tear gas on Saturday, a human rights group said, pressing ahead with protests against clerical rulers facing a relentless popular uprising.
An Iranian coroner’s report denied that Mahsa Amini had died due to blows to the head and limbs while in police custody and linked her death to pre-existing medical conditions, state media said on Friday.
The death of 22-year-old Amini, an Iranian Kurd, has ignited nationwide demonstrations, marking the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leaders in years.
Women have removed their veils in defiance of the clerical establishment while furious crowds called for the downfall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After a call for mass demonstrations on Saturday, security forces shot at protesters and used tear gas in the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj and Saqqez, according to the Iranian human rights group Hengaw.
Widespread strikes are taking place in the cities of Saqqez, Diwandareh, Mahabad and Sanandaj, said Hengaw.
One of the schools in Saqqez city’s square was filled with schoolgirls chanting “woman, life, freedom,” the rights group said.
Hengaw said on Saturday that Iranian security forces had launched crackdowns in two Kurdish cities.
“Security forces are shooting at the protesters in Sanandaj and Saqqez,” said Hengaw. It said riot police were also using tear gas.
The widely followed Tavsir1500 Twitter account also reported shootings at protesters in the two northwestern Kurdish cities.
Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed, hundreds injured, and thousands arrested by security forces confronting protests.
Amini was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 13 for “inappropriate attire,” and died three days later.
The government has described the protests as a plot by Iran’s enemies including the United States, accusing armed dissidents – among others – of violence in which at least 20 members of the security forces have been reported killed.__VOANews