Iran protests: Tehran supports freedom of expression, claims country's ambassador to UN

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By Euronews with AFP and AP
Iranian Ambassador to the UN defends handling of the protests
Iranian Ambassador to the UN defends handling of the protests   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Protests continue in Iran as activists call for more rallies and civil disobedience. The latest images show protesters chanting "down with the dictator" in the predominantly-Kurdish city of Sanandaj.

As Iranian security forces continue their violent crackdown on the demonstrators, the country's government is facing international backlash.

It has been criticised for its handling of the unrest, which Iran’s ambassador to the UN has dismissed.

"The rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are recognised by the Iranian constitution," said Amir Saeid Jalil. "Moreover, the enjoyment of these rights by the Iranian people has always been supported by the government."

How the Iran protests started

The protests began following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman called Mahsa Amini. She was arrested by the morality police on 13 September in Tehran for violating Iran's strict dress code.

Reports say officers beat her on the head, however the police claim she suffered a heart attack. To support their claim, the authorities released footage of Amini collapsing in the station.

However, her family denies she had a heart attack. The footage, along with subsequent images of her in a coma, sparked outrage among Iranian citizens.

The first demonstrations then began, with women filming themselves ripping off their headscarves, burning them or cutting their hair in protest.

What has been the impact of the protests?

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's leader, has downplayed the impact of these protests, saying they were started and stoked by the US, Israel and other foreign nations, a claim critics dismiss as fabricated.

The protests, now in their sixth week, involve schoolgirls and women who are demanding change in Iran.

Chanting slogans such as "Woman, life, freedom" and "Death to the dictator", these demands range from wanting more freedoms to a complete regime change by overthrowing the state.

According to the NGO Iran Human Rights, at least 277 people, including 40 children and 24 women have been killed in the ongoing nationwide protests.

Security forces have denied killing peaceful protestors but videos taken at protests suggest otherwise.

Over 1,000 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the anti-government protests, and some face the death penalty.