Iran accused the United States on Monday of using unrest triggered by the death of a woman in police custody to try to destabilise the country and warned it would not go unanswered, as the biggest protests since 2019 showed no signs of abating.
Iran has cracked down on nationwide demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini after she was detained by morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict restrictions on women’s dress.
The case has drawn international condemnation. Iran said the United States was supporting rioters and seeking to destabilise the Islamic Republic.
“Washington is always trying to weaken Iran’s stability and security although it has been unsuccessful,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told Nour news, which is affiliated with a top security body, in a statement.
On his Instagram page, Kanaani accused the leaders of the United States and some European countries of abusing a tragic incident in support of “rioters” and ignoring “the presence of millions of people in the streets and squares of the country in support of the system”.
Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday over the crackdown, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of Amini.
The anti-government protests are the largest to sweep the country since demonstrations over fuel prices in 2019 when Reuters reported 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown on protesters – the bloodiest bout of internal unrest in the Islamic Republic’s history.
At least 41 people have been killed in the latest unrest that started on Sept. 17, according to state TV.
President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran ensures freedom of expression and that he has ordered an investigation into Amini’s death.
A main Iranian teachers’ union, in a statement posted on social media on Sunday, called for teachers and students to stage the first national strike since the unrest began, on Monday and Wednesday.
Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils.
In a video circulating on social media, the sister of a man killed in the anti-government demonstrations, Javad Heydari, cut her hair on his grave in defiance of Iran’s conservative Islamic dress code. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.
The state has organised rallies in an attempt to defuse the crisis.
Although the demonstrations over Amini’s death are a major challenge to the government, analysts see no immediate threat to the country’s leaders because Iran’s elite security forces have stamped out protests in the past.
Iran has blamed armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents for involvement in the unrest, particularly in the northwest where most of Iran’s up to 10 million Kurds live.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched an artillery and drone attack on Iranian militant opposition bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.