This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iranians have taken to the streets for a 17th consecutive day in anti-government protests triggered by the death in custody of a young woman as President Ebrahim Raisi appealed for unity.
Universities and high schools joined the protests on October 4, highlighting the broadening of demonstrations that have followed the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab.
Videos posted on social media showed unrest in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Shiraz, and Isfahan, with demonstrators shouting slogans such as “Death to the dictator.”
During a session of parliament, Raisi acknowledged “weaknesses and shortcomings” in the country.
“Today the country’s determination is aimed at cooperation to reduce people’s problems,” he told the session. “Unity and national integrity are necessities that render our enemy hopeless.”
At the same time he echoed other officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in blaming the United States and Israel for inciting the unrest.
Iran has also blamed the unrest on Kurdish opposition groups in the country’s northwest that operate along the border with Iraq.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on October 4 bombed three bases belonging to Kurdish militant groups in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region using drones and artillery, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. It was the latest in a series of bombardments carried out by the IRGC that killed at least nine people last month.
The scope of the ongoing unrest, the most sustained in over a decade, has been difficult to verify as the government blocks access to social media and the Internet.
Witnesses have reported spontaneous gatherings across the country featuring small acts of defiance — such as protesters shouting slogans from rooftops, cutting their hair, and burning their state-mandated headscarves.
The Tehranpars and Ekbatan neighborhoods have been among the centers of the protests in Tehran, with the sound of gunshots sometimes heard in the background.
Medical students at Gilan University on October 4 protested the use of ambulances by the security forces to suppress demonstrations.
Videos released on October 4 also the shops on Taleghani Street in the central Iranian city of Isfahan closed as part of a strike.
Reports from Amini’s hometown of Saghez in Kurdistan Province indicate that teachers are on strike in schools as well as female students protesting in the street.
Schoolgirls in Saghez were shown chanting “Don’t be afraid, we are all together” in the street.
The European Union says it is weighing tough new sanctions over the crackdown.
Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was considering “all the options at our disposal, including restrictive measures, to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have been responding to the demonstrations.”
Borrell’s comment came after France said it was pushing the bloc to target senior officials with punitive measures, including “freezing their assets and their right to travel.”
U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier this week that the United States would impose “further costs” this week on “perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters” in Iran.
Amini’s death on September 16 has unleashed a wave of anger over the enforcement of a rule that women must cover their head in public, which they say highlights the lack of women’s rights in Iran.
Officials say she died of a heart attack, while her relatives and supporters say eyewitness reports indicated she was beaten while being arrested.
Hundreds of people including artists, activists, and journalists have been arrested since the protests erupted.