President Ebrahim Raisi stated on Saturday that Iran must respond forcefully to the protests that have rocked the country following the death in jail of a lady apprehended by the Islamic Republic's morality police.
State television reported on Saturday that at least 41 people were killed in the week-long uprising. It stated that the death toll was based on its count and that official numbers had not yet been revealed. Protests have broken out in the majority of the country's 31 provinces.
Raisi was quoted by state media on Saturday as stating that Iran must "deal decisively with those who oppose the country's security and tranquillity."
Raisi was on the phone with the family of a Basij volunteer slain during the suppression of protests in Mashhad, a city in Iran's northeastern region.
The president "emphasized the need to differentiate between protest and disturbing public order and security" and referred to the events as a "riot," according to official media.
Protests erupted a week ago in northwestern Iran during the funeral of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after falling into a coma following her incarceration in Tehran by morality police enforcing the hijab.
Her death has revived outrage over concerns such as limits on personal liberties in Iran, rigid clothing regulations for women, and a faltering economy as a result of sanctions.
In the rallies, women have played a key part by waving and burning their veils. As enraged crowds demanded the ouster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, some have publicly shaved their heads.
The protests are the greatest to sweep the country since riots over petrol prices in 2019 when Reuters reported that 1,500 protesters were killed in the worst conflict in the history of the Islamic Republic.
Several Iranian cities had state-sponsored rallies on Friday to counter the anti-government demonstrations, and the army threatened to tackle "the enemies" behind the disturbance.
Dozens of Iraqi and Iranian Kurds demonstrated outside the United Nations compound in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil on Saturday, waving signs depicting Amini and screaming "death to the dictator," about Khamenei.
Iranian state media, which has blamed armed exiled Iranian Kurdish dissidents for the disturbance, reported that Iranian Revolutionary Guards had launched artillery on Kurdish opposition group bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
At least three times this week, mobile Internet service has been interrupted in Iran, according to NetBlocks. According to activists, the action is designed to prevent violent images from being broadcast worldwide.
NetBlocks announced on Saturday that Microsoft's Skype video calling service is now blocked, the latest such action following Instagram, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.
To maintain Iran's internet connectivity, the United States is allowing exceptions to its sanctions regime - a move that Tehran said on Saturday was consistent with Washington's hostile approach.
Amnesty International stated that demonstrators fear a "spiralling deadly response from security forces" and demanded an investigation by the United Nations.
On the evening of September 21, security personnel opened fire, killing at least 19 people, including three children, according to the report.
Amnesty stated that the mounting death toll is a disturbing sign of how brutal the government's assault on human life has been since the internet shutdown.
Friday evening, state media aired images purporting to indicate that calm had returned to several districts of the Iranian capital Tehran.
"But in some western and northern areas of Tehran and certain provinces rioters destroyed public property," the report stated, showing footage of protestors torching trash cans and a vehicle, marching, and throwing rocks.
Late on Saturday, the activist Twitter account 1500tasvir posted videos of protests in Tehran's western district of Sattarkhan showing protesters gathered in a square and chanting "don't be afraid we all in this together" while a motorcycle belonging to the riot police can be seen burning in the background.
A video posted on social media showed a demonstration in the northern city of Babol in which youths attempted to remove portraits of Khamenei and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, from the entrance of a university while bystanders cheered and chanted "death to the dictator."
Late Saturday night, social media videos showed continued protests in Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdistan region, despite a substantial police presence.