Iran protests: Death toll continues to climb, as reporter who first highlighted Amini’s death is arrested

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Iranian security forces over the weekend arrested the journalist who first reported on Mahsa Amini’s death as protests in the country continue for almost two weeks. 

“This regime has failed to put down the protests, which have now spread to every province of the country,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, senior Iran and financial economics adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital. “The protests that started in Tehran in front of the hospital where Mahsa Zhina Amini’s soul left her body after being beaten by the guidance patrol, also known as morality police, spread to Kurdistan, where she came from, and from there to all corners of the country.”

“The protest that started over the murder of Mahsa by the Morality police, whose job is to impose sharia laws on Iranians, especially Iranian women, quickly went beyond the issue of hijab and united people in a struggle to overthrow the Islamist regime in Iran,” Ghasseminejad, who was born and raised in Iran, added.

News of journalist Niloofar Hamedi’s arrest started to spread over social media Wednesday evening, local time, as her friends and family tried to raise awareness. Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, Hamedi’s lawyer, said he was keeping up to date on the condition of his client’s detention and working to free her, the Foreign Desk reported. 

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Kamfirouzi said that authorities had also suspended his client’s Twitter account. 

Protests started at the funeral for Amini, 22, after her death while in the custody of the morality police, who claim that she merely fell into a coma following her arrest. Her family and some witnesses instead said they saw evidence that the police had beaten her. 

Protesters make a fire and block a street in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sept 21, 2022.
(AP Photo, File)

The protesters have demanded an end to the strict sharia laws that the morality police enforce, as well as other violations of women’s rights in the country. 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has warned protesters that his regime will act “decisively” to end the violence as people in the streets demand his removal – or, in some cases, his death. 

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“The brave people of Iran are currently on the streets all throughout the country protesting the brutal murder of an innocent 22-year-old girl for merely showing some of her hair,” The Foreign Desk’s editor-in-chief Lisa Daftari told Fox News Digital. “While it has been called a feminist movement or a movement for women’s rights, it has turned into a movement for total freedom.” 

Some reports have claimed that the protests have spread to 156 cities, with 240 people dead and over 12,000 arrested, though Fox News Digital was unable to verify those numbers. Other sources have said at least 76 people have died and over 1,200 arrested. 

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The U.S. responded to Iran’s actions by sanctioning the morality police and seven other Iranian security officials “responsible for suppressing nonviolent protests” in the country, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Sept. 22. He directly blamed the morality police for Amini’s death. 

But Daftari has insisted that the U.S. can do more and has urged leaders to send a clear and unified message in support of the protesters. 

“Each time the courageous people of Iran come out onto the streets, there may be a different catalyst that brings them there, but the slogans you hear and the central message of their movement is always the same,” she said. “They’re calling for an end to this regime and a removal of the theocratic regime of the mullahs.”

“The people of Iran are telling the world that it’s not about an isolated case, and this is not just a one-off, but that this is systemic brutality that they have endured for 43 years under this regime.” 

A police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of a young woman who had been detained for violating the country's conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sept. 19, 2022.

A police motorcycle burns during a protest over the death of a young woman who had been detained for violating the country’s conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sept. 19, 2022.
(AP Photo, File)

IRAN CONDEMNS US, EU INVOLVEMENT IN SUPPORTING NATIONWIDE PROTESTS

Both Daftari and Ghasseminejad also called for President Biden to end negotiations with Iran over a nuclear deal that would release money back to the regime in exchange for promises to delay the development of nuclear weapons technology – money that could go toward funding further proxy groups like the Houthis and creating greater chaos in the Middle East. 

“The Biden administration should stop negotiations with the regime. It is a mistake to release hundreds of billions of dollars to a radical Islamist regime that chants death to America, murders its people, creates chaos in the region, supports terrorism across the world, has active plots to assassinate American citizens including high ranking U.S. officials, and wants to annihilate our ally,” Ghasseminejad said. 

“The United States can sanction those who engage in murdering the Iranian people and it should not issue visas to the regime officials and their family members whom we know live [a] luxurious double life in the U.S..,” he added. 

Maryam Rajavi, the current leader of MEK, applauded the people of Iran for their “courageous” protests against the regime headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and claimed that the people – especially the women – will “sweep away Khamenei’s dark rule.” 

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“The people of Iran give life to the UDHR by resisting a regime that tramples fundamental human rights,” Rajavi posted on Twitter following the first week of protests. “I urge the international community to condemn the clerical regime and support protesters.” 

Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.