Protests in Iran endure a night of violence as killings are reported in two cities

A night of violence flared in at least two Iranian cities as anti-government protests challenging the regime at an unprecedented level entered their third month.

At least five people were killed in the southwestern Iranian city of Izeh on Wednesday, according to Valiollah Hayati, the deputy governor of Khuzestan province. According to unconfirmed reports in state media, including Press TV, a 9- or 10-year-old boy was among the dead; his death has become the latest rallying cry for some protesters.

State media and local officials, including Hayati, said the people had been shot dead by two “terrorists” riding motorcycles. However, opposition activists pointed the finger at pro-government forces.

The violence comes just over two months after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being detained for allegedly breaking the country’s strict dress code.

Amini’s death sparked protests that turned into wider anti-government demonstrations that swept the country, arguably the biggest challenge facing the theocratic Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that protesters had gathered in various parts of Izeh, 450 kilometers south of the capital Tehran, and began chanting anti-government slogans.

On this Monday, September 19, 2022, photo taken by a person not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, a police motorcycle and a garbage can burn during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the country's vice squad, in central Tehran, Iran.  Spontaneous mass gatherings to continued scattered demonstrations have unfolded elsewhere in Iran as nationwide protests over the death of a young woman in vice squad custody enter their fourth week.
A police motorcycle and a garbage can burn during a protest in central Tehran on Sept. 19.AP file

According to IRNA’s government-sanctioned account, “terrorists exploited that opportunity and carried out the terror attack”.

Independent reporting in Iran is difficult, and NBC News was unable to investigate or confirm the allegations or accounts in this article.

In a separate attack, gunmen shot dead two members of the Iranian paramilitary Basij in the central city of Isfahan, according to the IRNA news agency. The gunmen rode motorcycles in both attacks, The Associated Press reported.

Prominent Iranian opposition activists posting on social media from abroad painted a different picture than the official media.

Tehran-born British actor and human rights lawyer Nazanin Boniadi was one of the prominent social media users who mentioned the murdered boy’s name, saying that “the Islamic Republic killed him and his dreams with a single bullet”. And Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad tweeted that the boy had been killed by “security forces”.

The violence came during a three-day general strike marking the anniversary of another round of protests in 2019 that killed hundreds of protesters.

Despite a violent police crackdown with tear gas, bullets and bullets against demonstrators over the past few months, women-led protests, including factory strikes, have not ceased.

Iranian officials have blamed hostile foreign actors for the unrest without providing evidence. The protesters say they are tired of decades of repression by a church establishment they see as corrupt and authoritarian.

At least 342 people, including 43 children and 26 women, have been killed in the protests so far, according to the Norway-based Iranian human rights organization. Other human rights groups have taken a similar toll, though they say it’s likely an underestimation.

Sean Nevin and The associated press contributed.

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