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Western diplomats summoned in Iran protests

September 25, 2022

As antigovernment protests keep up in Iran, authorities continue to look abroad for scapegoats. The official death toll from the protests has risen to 41.

Women in Iran sat in protest holding up signs
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed foreign countries for the ongoing protests in IranImage: UGC

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the British and Norwegian ambassadors over what it considers interference on Sunday.

The ministry said it had called the UK ambassador, Simon Shercliff, to protest against Farsi-language news outlets being hosted in the UK that have been reporting on antigovernment protests in Iran.

Norway's ambassador was also summoned, with the justification from the ministry being comments from the president of the Norwegian parliament, Masud Gharahkhani, who has expressed his support for the protests.

Gharakhani, who was born in Tehran, wrote on Twitter on Sunday: "If my parents had not taken the decision to flee in 1987, I would be one of those who are fighting with their lives in the street."

Meanwhile, the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell described Iran's crackdown on protests as "unjustifiable" and "unacceptable" in a statement on behalf of the bloc.

"For the European Union and its member states, the widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protestors is unjustifiable and unacceptable," Borrell said in the statement.

"The decision to severely restrict internet access by the relevant Iranian authorities and to block instant messaging platforms is a further cause for concern," he said, adding that it "blatantly violates freedom of expression."

Why are people in Iran protesting?

The move comes as Iran is being gripped by widespread protests — the biggest in years — following the death of a young Kurdish woman after she was arrested by Iran's morality police for not fully abiding by the strict dress code for women.

The death of Mahsa Amini earlier this month sparked protests that have seen other women in Iran publicly remove their headscarves, in what Human Rights Watch's researcher Tara Sepehri Far desribed as "iconic" scenes. 

"I have never seen criticism against compulsory hijab so widespread and so diverse within the Iranian society and inside the country," Far told DW. 

The demonstrations have grown in recent days, with many men also joining. A violent police crackdown has seen demonstrations also turn violent in response.

Iran protests spread worldwide

Iranian state TV on Sunday said the number of people who had been killed in what they have called "riots" has risen to at least 41.

Another young woman, Hadis Najafi, who went viral after sharing a video of herself at the protests, was also reported to have been killed.

Members of the state security forces have also reportedly been killed. A member of the Basij, a volunteer force with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, was killed in clashes with protesters in Tehran on Saturday night, The Associated Press reported.

On Saturday, ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi called for "decisive" action to be taken to curb the protest movement.

Support amid internet blackout

Asghar Farhadi, the Academy Award-winning director from Iran, shared a video online expressing his support for the women-led protests.

He lauded "progressive and courageous women leading protests for their human rights alongside men."

"I saw outrage and hope in their faces and in the way they marched in the streets," he said in a video message on Instagram. "I deeply respect their struggle for freedom and the right to choose their own destiny despite all the brutality they are subjected to."

The Iranian government has responded to the protests by shutting down the internet in the country, severely limiting access to information both for those inside and outside of Iran.

Billionaire Elon Musk has said he is activating Starlink satellite connections for Iran to enable internet access, but will require the Starlink terminals to be brought into the country for it to work.

ab, sdi/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, EFE)