BAGHDAD — A huge fire blazed at a notorious prison where political prisoners and anti-government activists are kept in the Iranian capital. Local media and online videos reported shots fired as protests raged nationwide for the fifth week.
Based on footage circulated online, it was not clear what caused the fire at Evin Prison. The events that took place within the prison’s walls Saturday were unclear. Videos show that shots continued to sound as smoke plumes engulfed Tehran’s sky amid an alarm.
The U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that an “armed conflict” broke out within the prison walls. The Center for Human Rights, based in the United States, reported that shots were first heard at Ward 7 of prison. This account could not be verified immediately by the Associated Press.
Protesters also intensified demonstrations against the government along major streets, as well as at some universities across Iran. The prison fire happened on Saturday. As the fourth week of the protest ended, human rights monitors said that hundreds were killed, many including children.
Demonstrators chanted “Down with the Dictator” on the streets of Ardabil in the country’s northwest. According to social media videos, there was a student rally outside of Tehran’s universities. In the city of Sanandaj, a hotspot for demonstrations in the northern Kurdish region, school girls chanted, “Woman, life, freedom,” down a central street.
After Mahsa, 22 years old, was killed in custody by police officers, protests flared. She was arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated in police custody, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained.
According to the U.S-based rights watchdog HRANA, at least 233 protesters were killed in violence that erupted against Iran’s regime on September 17. According to the group, 32 of the victims were under the age 18. According to Iran Human Rights, Oslo-based Iran has already estimated that 201 persons were killed.
Iranian officials dismissed the unrest, claiming it was a Western plot. They did not offer any evidence.
Public anger in Iran has coalesced around Amini’s death, prompting girls and women to remove their mandatory headscarves on the street in a show of solidarity. Other segments of society, including oil workers, have also joined the movement, which has spread to at least 19 cities, becoming one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the country’s 2009 Green Movement.
Riots also broke out in prisons. There were clashes between guards at Lakan prison, in Gilan’s northern Province.
Commercial strikes resumed Saturday in key cities across the Kurdish region, including Saqqez, Amini’s hometown and the birthplace of the protests, Bukan and Sanandaj.
In response, the government used live ammunition, teargas and sound bombs in dispersal of crowds.
A video of plainclothes Basij (a volunteer paramilitary group) is widely circulated Saturday. They are shown forcing a woman to get into a vehicle and shooting bullets in the air during a demonstration in Gohardasht in northern Iran.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that at least 40 Iranian journalists were detained by Iranian authorities since the protests began.
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