Iran’s army warned on Friday that it would “confront the enemies” to ensure security and peace in the country, according to a statement, as protests rage over the death of a woman in the morality police’s custody.
Iranians have staged nationwide demonstrations over the case of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died last week after being arrested for wearing “unsuitable attire”.
The army said “these desperate actions are part of the evil strategy of the enemy to weaken the Islamic regime”.
Pro-government protests were planned for Friday, Iranian media said.
Meanwhile, a New York-based human rights group has said that at least 36 people have been killed in an Iranian crackdown on protests.
The official death toll rose to at least 17 on Thursday, including five security personnel, but the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said its sources put the figure much higher.
“On the 7th day of #IranProtest, officials admit to at least 17 deaths w/ independent sources say 36,” the CHRI said in a Twitter post late Thursday.
“Expect the number to rise. World leaders must press Iranian officials to allow protest without lethal force.”
“The government has responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas, according to videos shared on social media that have also shown protesters bleeding profusely,” CHRI said in a statement.
Unprecedented images have shown protesters defacing or burning images of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and late Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.
In response, security forces have fired at crowds with birdshot and metal pellets, and deployed tear gas and water cannon, said Amnesty International and other human rights groups.
Demonstrators have hurled stones at them, set fire to police cars and chanted anti-government slogans, the official IRNA news agency said.
Protesters in Tehran and other cities have torched police stations and vehicles as outrage over Amini’s death showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces coming under attack.
Amini’s death has reignited anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran — including strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.
Iran’s clerical rulers fear a revival of the 2019 protests that erupted over gasoline price rises, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic’s history.