Iranian women and girls staged fresh anti-government protests on Wednesday, activists said, as protests extended into a third week, given new impetus by reports on social media that a 16-year-old student had died after taking part in a women’s rights rally.
The student’s aunt, Atash Shahkarami, told BBC Persian that Nika Shahkarami called a friend to say she was being chased by security forces on September 20. Her family found her body in a Tehran morgue 10 days later, Ms. Shahkarami said. The BBC said Ms Shahkarami was arrested after being interviewed.
Iranian authorities said Nika died after falling from a roof and was not in custody, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The wave of protests that has gripped Iran since last month erupted after the funeral of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, on September 17. He died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
At first, protesters aimed their anger at the morality police and demanded the relaxation of restrictions on women’s clothing. The protests have since turned into wider calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, with some protesters clashing violently with security forces.
The authorities used tear gas and opened fire on the protesters, killing dozens. The Norway-based non-profit Iran Human Rights said on Tuesday that at least 154 had been killed across the country. Hundreds more have been injured and hundreds arrested.
Nika’s death appears to have encouraged other girls to join the protests alongside students and women from older generations. Footage posted online on Wednesday shows dozens of schoolgirls in Tehran, during a visit by an official from the Basij paramilitary group to their school, removing their hijabs in protest and shouting “Go away, Basij”.
Separate footage showed three women atop a bridge in Tehran unfurling a banner of an uncovered woman, saying “Next is one of us”, before removing their headscarves and waving them in the air.
“Nika’s death will definitely fuel the fire of anger,” a female protester in Tehran said via the Telegram messaging app. “What they did in Nice is a true example of what the Islamic Republic is doing to us.”
Members of Nika’s family told the BBC that as they were preparing to bury her, security forces arrived and took her body away. She was buried in a village 25 miles from her town, they said.
Authorities have not publicly commented on claims that they took her body from the family.
Activists have released a video purporting to show Nika’s mother protesting in the street in defiance of authorities’ orders to remain silent, congratulating her daughter on her martyrdom.
Iranian authorities are stepping up their crackdown, activists said. On Sunday, members of the Basij clashed violently with protesters at the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, according to protesters who were there.
In the evening, Basij members and plainclothes policemen on motorcycles surrounded the university and began firing pellets and rubber bullets and beating protesters with batons, according to these protesters.
“You could hear non-stop gunfire,” said one protester. “As we were leaving in my friend’s car, the windows were shattered by bullets.”
At least six students from Sharif were taken to Evin prison, according to protesters who said they had been in contact with relatives of the prisoners, a prison notorious for torturing political dissidents.
In recent days, agents from the intelligence ministry and the Revolutionary Guard’s intelligence branch raided homes and arrested people suspected of participating in the protests, said another protester who was in contact with the families of some of the arrested students.
While larger gatherings in the capital have subsided, smaller demonstrations are popping up every day in different neighborhoods, according to protesters and residents. On Tuesday night, shops in northern Tehran closed earlier than usual, but restaurants were still serving diners.
Around 21:00 local time, shouts of “death to the dictator” began to echo from rooftops and open windows, echoing through the streets and restaurants.
Information about the government’s crackdown has been patchy since the first days of the protests, with authorities throttling internet communication across the country.
—Benoit Faucon contributed to this article.
Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at [email protected]
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