Iranians enraged by the death of a young woman in police custody braved bullets and tear gas on Saturday, a human rights group said, continuing protests against religious leaders facing a popular uprising implacable.
An Iranian coroner’s report has denied that Mahsa Amini died from 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 Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, has sparked protests across the country, marking the biggest challenge to Iran’s religious leaders in years.
Women removed their veils in defiance of the clerical establishment as angry crowds called for the downfall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After a call for mass protests on Saturday, security forces fired on protesters and used tear gas in the Kurdish towns of Sanandaj and Saqqez, according to Iranian human rights group Hengaw.
Widespread strikes are taking place in the towns of Saqqez, Diwandareh, Mahabad and Sanandaj, Hengaw said.
One of the schools in the town square of Saqqez was filled with schoolgirls chanting “woman, life, freedom”, the rights group said.
Hengaw said on Saturday that Iranian security forces had launched crackdown operations in two Kurdish towns.
“Security forces fire on protesters in Sanandaj and Saqqez,” Hengaw said. He said riot police were also using tear gas.
The widely followed Tavsir1500 Twitter account also reported shootings at protesters in the two northwestern Kurdish towns.
Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed, hundreds injured and thousands arrested by security forces in the face of protests.
Amini was arrested in Tehran on September 13 for “inappropriate dress” 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 were reportedly killed.